GitHub: How An Open Source Programming Tool With A Funny Name Could Help Revolutionize Medical Research

Joyce Lee | The Health Care Blog | July 28, 2013

Most people I work with in medicine have never heard of GitHub .

For the unfamiliar, GitHub is an online repository, which is an essential tool used by computer programmers to store their programming code.  It has a number of virtues, including giving users the ability to track multiple versions of their code (sort of like remembering all the track changes you ever made to your word document).  This is an essential tool for programmers but its value goes beyond its function as a track changes repository, as it is a site that facilitates open source collaboration, given its “social” features, similar to social networks like Facebook or Twitter, in which you follow the content of others or others follow you.

The most amazing thing about GitHub is that many users post their code (their work, their blood, sweat, and tears) publicly on their GitHub profile.  Individuals will comment on others code, providing valuable input that the owner of the code can use to improve their work.  In addition,  can “fork” another person’s code repository, and work directly on the code in their own Github profile to make changes or improvements, sort of like a tag team collaboration. GitHub is the tool to help facilitate large-scale open source collaboration for the software/web programming world (such as that which lead to the Linux revolution).