“C” is for collaborative science

I am just fascinated by the apparently recent phenomenon of companies jumping on the “collaboration” paradigm for science. You would think it never happended before. For example there is the 2010 Collaborative Science document from Microsoft and prior to that the 2008 IBM white paper for life sciences. I intend to touch on some of these white papers in more detail in future but for now they provide a nice entry point.

From The IBM white paperHealthcare suppliers need to work more collaboratively with delivery organizations to lower costs and improve outcomes. “

These companies are trying to rebrand a process with their services (of course). Now when I think in particular of science and collaboration I do not think of these companies immediately, however I have used Microsoft office for years for want of any other alternative for every document I write or slide that I present. And for that I guess I am grateful. Perhaps their marketing could reflect this use for collaboration in science ( e.g 6 out of 10 scientists said they collaborated using documents/ slides produced with our software). However, for email which I use in all my collaborations I use Yahoo. Should we be expecting Yahoo to jump on the same bandwagon and start thinking of itself as a player in collaborative science. Yet all these tools are less than stellar when it comes to pushing data and molecules around and getting people to chime in and contribute (or collaborate).

So does this suggest that perhaps no one (at least from the bigger companies) owns this space of truly collaborative science (even just focussed on life sciences). Ironically it may be a bold new frontier that is just not well serviced with products for scientists in academia or industry (or working in their home office). What could we do to remedy this? Well, the big companies tend to tack their software together to come up with a “solution” and call it good. Maybe its time for a rethink – perhaps this could be done collaboratively.

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