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The Open Science Project
Leveraging the power of the Internet to extend the frontiers of science
by Jeffrey Sax
April 12th, 2004
Never before in the known history of mankind has so much knowledge been so
readily available. Never before has it been this easy for people all over the
world to work together. There is no doubt that the Internet revolution
has brought tremendous benefits to the scientific community.
Unfortunately, the topics of research in that community are guided more by the
interests and expectations of the corporate and scientific establishment than
by the private passions of the researchers. This leaves many bright minds in a
position where they spend their days working on projects they only have a
limited interest in. As a result, they are not utilizing their full capacity.
Recent developments in the software industry offer a solution.
Software development has always had a relatively low entry barrier. Any
individual with some time on their hands had the potential to create an
application that could be used by thousands or millions of users. Even as
software applications have grown in size, the industry has evolved with that
increase. Hundreds of thousands of developers spend much of their own time
working on open source projects. The software industry thus taps into a
tremendous reservoir of know-how. The result is significant advances in ways
that would not be possible otherwise.
Perhaps the most striking example of the possibilities of open source software
is Linux. Linux started out in 1991 as a personal project by Linus Torvalds, a
computer science student at the University of Helsinki in Finland. Now,
thousands of companies use Linux, millions of websites run on Linux
servers. Thousands of individuals contribute to the project, creating new
features, or allowing it to work with the latest technology.
The Open Science Project aims to utilize the untapped brain power of thousands
of scientists and other gifted individuals in a similar way.