Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Cognitive computing and the National Library of Medicine

"IBM Watson for Drug Discovery helps researchers and organizations discover potential new drug targets and additional drug indications. IBM’s cloud-based, enterprise solution analyzes scientific knowledge and data to reveal patterns and connections that accelerate the formation of new hypotheses, increasing the likelihood and pace of scientific breakthroughs."

It bothers me that there is no true open source, open access version of this kind of system.  Should it?  Or should we accept that it cost a lot of money to put together software like this and that there is nothing wrong with making a profit on building good software?

The issue to me is that the root content of the product being sold is knowledge and knowledge is more useful (for producing more of itself) when more people have access to it.  It is impossible to imagine the impact that PubMed/MEDLINE has had on the advance of biomedical science.  Researchers simply could not do their work without it.  As our collective knowledge base expands, tools for using that knowledge will inevitably need to look more and more like Watson and less like like digital paper libraries.

Will we ever see the U.S. National Library of Medicine or its equivalent in other countries move into the age of cognitive computing?  Is it solely up to industry to fill the increasingly obvious gap?  I guess it depends where we want to place that power.