Forbes: Open-Source Science: The New Norm

The discovery of the Higgs boson is of course a monumental achievement. But also noteworthy is how the physics community has evolved to get things done – and what this trajectory suggests for other scientific fields and fast-changing industries.

Let’s take a quick look at the history: supercomputers arrived in the 1970s, leading to an explosion of data and the ability to aggregate it with far greater ease. This, combined with the soaring costs of infrastructure like CERN’s high-energy accelerator, contributed to new behaviors across the field. Researchers in particle physics and allied fields like cosmology began to see possibilities for working in bigger teams, beyond a single lab or host institution.

All fields need global collaboration if they are to make major discoveries like the Higgs boson particle. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Today, a new norm has replaced the old, and it boils down to this: You can’t do good physics unless you contribute as part of a collaborative, globally integrated team.

A similar shift is underway in the biomedical sciences, and Seattle-based scientist and entrepreneur Stephen Friend is among the global innovators behind it. Friend brings a unique set of perspectives and insights: he started his career as an academic clinical researcher, co-founded a successful bioinformatics company, then led Merck’s oncology research for the better part of a decade.”

Friend also brings an unwavering resolve to steer clinical research so that it benefits people and their health. ”The current approaches assume that eureka moments by inspired clinicians will be sufficient to provide the insights to develop drug therapies,” he says. “Simply put, this is no longer the case, and we have an important opportunity as a field to design new ways of working for better and faster results by using the networked team approaches that have propelled software engineers and physicists, who have excelled at doing large-scale projects, sharing efforts before publication.”

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