Open Source Is The Only Way Medicine

Marcus Baw | OpenSource Delivers | December 15, 2014

The software we use in medicine is now part of medicine. Medical software has, however, been noticeably exempt from the level of academic scrutiny we give the rest of medicine. For other medical endeavours we require published methods, peer review, and iterative refinement. Only through open source software can we begin to scrutinise these ‘software’ parts of medicine to ensure safety, security, and efficacy.

Before Science there was Alchemy. Alchemists played with phenomena that we would now recognise as chemistry, physics, and biology, and drew conclusions. But they kept their findings secret. Science progressed slowly and there were many wrong turns because others could not analyze, challenge, and build on the work of others.

Later, as scientists started to communicate and share findings openly, they could challenge and compare the work of others. Scientists wrote monographs which they published. This was known as the Age Of Reason. Like many revolutions it was in part powered by a technological advancement – the invention of the printing press – which suddenly made it possible to distribute many copies of someone’s work...