Ebola: Wake up call for open science.

The outbreak shames the scientific society. All of us, the doctors, engineers and scientists; can delude ourselves to take pride in what we do. That the product of what we do helps people. To think about the fact that whatever you are doing is always measured, thereby controlled by someone in terms of wealth and not by the advancement and improvement of human society, suggests quite the contrary.

J.C. Bose said that he won’t patent his inventions because patents will only appeal to someone wealthy to invest only to harvest more wealth and that he wanted his work for the benefits of the whole human society.

It is sad how he ended up in the shadows while thieves who managed to spin a stolen scientific invention has their legacy sealed by giant corporations. i.e Bell labs.

Aaron Swartz’s death did not bring any change to the way science works. Inventions in computer science and physical sciences are already taking up the open science platform making a real difference in the world of science and engineering that shapes up humanity. Open learning platforms like coursera, codeacademy and mit ocw are opening up knowledge channels that are previously reserved for a certain group of people. If someone breaks through such reservations, it was only through their sheer intellect. The transcendence of such an individual through layers of society was only an upward mobility. What that is, is a segregation algorithm that puts barriers across the layers of society and the upward mobility only helps to keep the structure of this social segregation process intact.

It may work fine but see what outbreaks like Ebola can do to such society. There wasn’t any headlines, not this much, up until the disease was confined within the borders of Africa. As if the humans living there deserve less than what we can have here. I am not talking about just the USA. Observe the world’s reaction to Ebola before and after it reached the shores of the first world. This is what I mean by social segregation. The way we are conditioned to look at a fellow human and judge what he can have and what he can not have.

Open Science:
As I said earlier, computer science and physical science is promoting the open science platform. What about biological sciences? Most of the bio-research facilities are owned by governments that are very keen about protecting the information acquired and pharmaceuticals that are only interested in the monetary value of the research. This creates a very specific environment that often shapes up the personality of the individuals associated with the industry.

The comments of the Nobel Laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan is very different from his contemporaries in Computer Science and Physical sciences. You can see his interests in protecting the medical industrial complex behind his supposed scientific comments. I don’t see such negligent comments from an AI researcher say Andrew Ng of Stanford.

This brings us to my point. The overall morale of a society is often screwed up. An average scientist’s morale is compromised by his investor’s idea of morale. A society is a spectra of personalities and what you consider as normal behavior is just the mean value of this spectra. It may still be cruel which will only bite the society in its back. A sort of correcting mechanism, I might cruelly say. It is time for us to think for ourselves. As the men and women of science, technology and medicine; we may have to redraw the lines of our morale, individually. In my humble opinion, Open Science is a way to start this wake. Honestly, I don’t believe the combined ability of our mental prowess would be outwitted by a microbe, any microbe.

On the other hand, think about where this society, in its current path might lead to. Only the wealthy will lead a healthy life while the rest of the society is condemned to rot. I am not pleased with that future.

p.s: I am not saying the open science movement is ignored by the bio-chem, medicine community. I am saying they should have been the leaders of this movement.
P.P.S: please take a look at the #Ebola tags in twitter. See how it flares up only after the patient zero in America dies and other 2 cases reported. Now twitter is a far better place than our media so just imagine how general public’s reactions are before Ebola reached here and after Ebola reached here.. https://i.imgur.com/9rEZVhJ.gif


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