Event: 29-31 July 2010, Berkeley CA, Open Science Summit

01 Poverty, 02 Infectious Disease, 04 Education, 07 Health, 10 Security, Civil Society, Collective Intelligence, Commerce, Government, Reform, Technologies
event link

Objectives:  Create an annual flagship event and news hub to build and maintain the identity of the international Open Science Movement.  Organize the various sub-communities into an effective, global, socio-technological force for rapid change in science/innovation policy. An attempt to gather all stakeholders who want to liberate our scientific and technological commons and enable a new era of decentralized, distributed innovation to solve humanity’s greatest challenges.

The well known “10/90” gap references the fact that only 10% of biomedical spending goes toward conditions that affect 90% of the world’s population.  Under this regime, “diseases of the poor,” such as Malaria, are neglected, while companies focus on “blockbuster” drugs for conditions that affect citizens of the wealthiest nations.  This situation, appalling though it is, actually grossly understates the systemic flaws of the prevailing biomedical innovation paradigm.  Framing this as a tradeoff of Market vs Social Values or the need for balancing commercial interests with public health, implies that the bio-pharma industrial complex works for what it purports to do.  If only we could find some way to engage or tweak existing mechanisms, we’ll make it through.  Wrong!

In fact, despite billions of dollars invested and decades of research, there has been little to no progress in recent decades even for extremely “lucrative” conditions like depression or “lifestyle” applications such as hair loss. Millions of “wealthy” patients in developed countries suffer from horrific chronic diseases, poorly understood and difficult to treat auto-immune disorders, and degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzhiemer’s.  In the United Sates, a silver tsunami of aging baby boomers threatens to overwhelm an already strained healthcare system.  Simultaneously, life expectancy for the youngest generation is falling for the first time, as an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and associated preventable conditions mocks the notion that we’ve made progress.  The world lacks rapid response capability to emerging pandemic viral threats, and bacteria such as Tuberculosis and MRSA have out-evolved our antibiotics, leaving humanity vulnerable to age old foes once thought conquered.

There is plenty of blame, shame, and pain to go around.  Governments, Academia, and Industry alike, are all implicated.  Certainly, it is tremendously difficult to develop and deploy new therapies, but the hideous expense ($1 billion+ for a new therapeutic) and long timelines (17 years to market) are unsustainable.  It’s not all doom and gloom.  Game changing new technologies, genomic medicine and regenerative stem cell therapies among them, can cure, not just treat, some of the most intractable diseases that plague humanity today.  Expending more resources without deep organizational change will not bring progress.  The broken business models of the 20th century are not adequate to the challenges we face.  We can and must do better.

Just as disturbing as the innovation shortfall of recent decades, is the barometer of public opinion. Appallingly large numbers of people ascribe to the “anti-vaccine movement.” Vaccination is the single greatest tool ever devised for public health, responsible for triumphs such as the eradication of Polio and Smallpox.  To arrogantly dismiss public fears as hysterical or uneducated, even if there is some truth to this, fails to acknowledge the greater truth that we have not provided the transparency, education, and honesty (in the form of disclosing potential conflicts of interest where they arise), the public requires if it is to trust the global scientific and medical establishment.  When scandals such as “Climategate” occur, the integrity of Science itself is undermined at precisely the moment we need it most.

With the falling costs of basic enabling technologies, we could choose to embrace a new golden era of citizen science, an era in which amateur investigators have ever more powerful tools with which to investigate themselves (via personal genomics), and their environments.  Such a participatory paradigm shift can make all the difference.  Only a renegotiation and reaffirmation of the social contract for science can open the path to a successful future for us all.  The Summit attempts to chart that course.

Related:
Open Source Science / ColabScience (new)