Open Source Drug Discovery for Malaria Meeting - Session 1, Part 1, Mary O'Kane



Welcome address at the Open Source Drug Discovery for Malaria meeting at The University of Sydney, February 24th 2012. Speaker is Professor Mary O'Kane, Chief Scientist and Engineer, New South Wales, Australia.

Summary: O’Kane passionate about openness in science. It is important that we try to discover new ways of doing research. There have been important moves in recent years in open innovation (e.g. prizes for the solution of big problems). Open science is different since everything is shared. Australian productivity might benefit from these new ideas, and is already investing in key infrastructure projects to make it happen.


1) Professor O’Kane has been passionate about openness in science for a while. Inspired by delegate Richard Jefferson’s work (e.g. Cambia), and the impact that open access to data can have on government. Mentions GIPA (Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009), which allows the public broad access to government data by default


2) Open science for malaria is important for its social and economic impact.


3) Professor O’Kane is on the Board (and is currently, Chair) of Development Gateway (Washington, Brussels) which pushes for open source software for transparency in the developing world and tries to deal with the issue of how we get through barrier of software patents. One product is Zunia – about knowledge exchange via an open platform. Is there is a potential overlap with open source drug discovery?


4) Discussions at this meeting are part of wider question about how we do research. Open innovation and open science are different, but related. DARPA in US – using competition and teams to solve big problems. Produced the microwave oven and the internet (really?). Google Translate was apparently a three-time DARPA project; when the eventual winner was declared Google employed the whole team! Most recently ARPA-E was established in the field of energy. Works with teams for solving problems.


5) Kaggle in Australia works in this way, with data science. The NSW government used it for Sydney's M4 freeway - wanted algorithm that predicts travel times. They supplied 18 months of data and offered $10K as a prize. The produced 364 proposals over 6 weeks, and the teams could see what the other team were doing (very interesting if that’s the case). Won by someone in the US, who generated an algorithm that would have cost the government $1M to build themselves. Science Exchange works by allowing people to subcontract research. There are commercial ventures such as Innocentive and Nine-Sigma.


6) Open science is different – since one shares everything. Science commons, creative commons, neurocommons are related to this. All part of exciting new ways of doing things. Innovation like this is particularly important for Australia, which has a good economy but has in recent years no productivity growth. Open science might boost productivity and improve how Australia works with other countries.


7) Open science needs significant new infrastructure for the management of big data. A mixture of human and automated platforms are needed. NICTA in Australia is key to this, and there should be interactions with this group. Intersect and ANDS also important components. We must seek ways of building eResearch platforms to support open science.


8) The University of Sydney has another resource – Michael Spence, the VC, who was very much in the open commons area in his former life.