Crowdsourcing Killer Outbreaks

Nanowerk’s article “Crowdsourcing killer outbreaks” presents an idea that is both a forward-thinking and efficient technological step for science, and a world-shaking challenge to the traditional concept of priority in the sciences. Here we see two dangerous pathogens, one that threatens human lives and the other that is scarring ecosystems. In both cases speed is of the essence for treatment as the danger increases exponentially as time goes on. The solution is met not by individual labs competing with each other to reach the cure before the other, but by collaboration on a global scale.

The “crowdsourcing” method, which is simply technologically mediated mass collaboration, allowed for different genomic labs to instantly share their findings with each other to reach a solution much faster than could have been possibly done with the competition method. By combining resources and exchanging information, the project became one of an international lab working together.

However, this does present a problem on the legal and financial levels. Universities and research labs depend on patents and priority (the concept that whoever discovers something first gets the credit) in order to fund themselves. With the research being shared through the creative commons, the determination of who gets priority is left very much up in the air.

I feel that there is much to be gained by the crowdsourcing of science. Even though there are some legal and economic details to be ironed out, there is too much to be gained to let the traditional methods hold us from making some serious progress in situations of dire need.