Open source science is a collaborative method of doing research. Based upon open sourcing in the software industry, which spawned the successful Linux operating system used throughout the world, open source science aims to distribute and connect researchers in a network of collaboration. Far too often large companies undertake expensive research in secret which is exactly replicated by their competitors. This replication increases the cost of their products. When these products are pharmaceuticals, either the taxpayer pays more tax for universal medical coverage or individuals with medical insurance pay higher premiums. Quality medical care is already becoming unaffordable to most people in the western world. With the advent of new, expensive therapeutic methodologies, such as stem cell based organ repair, tissue engineering, viral gene therapies and modified nucleic acid regulation of genes, the price of medical insurance is set to increase exponentially, especially as the population ages. A new system of scientific research is needed. One where large corporations aren’t extracting large profits from people’s misfortunes, and instead therapeutic procedures, whether pharmaceutical, surgical, cell based or genetic are available cheaply and rapidly to everyone.
Luckily the Internet revolution has created a whole universe of new possibilities for research collaboration, funding and clinical trials compared to the traditional big pharma approach which has existed for more than a century. Crowd funding of research is growing rapidly. The number of non profit organizations seeking donations for medical research has grown rapidly in the last few years. Researchers are using the Internet to ask for funding directly from the general population or from people affected by specific diseases. Even basic biomedical research is finding funding from online donations. One of the most successful open source research projects to date is the neglected diseases initiative. The diseases which affect the most people on earth are also the least researched. Unfortunately, poor people, mostly in tropical countries, are not financially viable customers for pharmaceutical companies, and very common tropical diseases have a permanent effect on people’s health, educational possibilities, and career possibilities, to say nothing of an early death. In counterpoint, cancer kills a very small fraction of the world’s population, and mostly older people in rich countries. The neglected tropical diseases mostly affect children in poor countries. Pharmaceutical companies, governments, philanthropists and individual researchers have pooled resources to combat the neglected diseases. Many of the techniques of open sourcing such as sharing primary data, collaborative experiments and dividing the work into fragments which can be tackled by small groups spread across many countries, have been utilized to speed research on these diseases.