GSK and their move to “open”

Fresh off the red eye back to London yesterday, the conversation about GlaxoSmithKline’s recent “open data” announcement had taken over my Twitter stream (as well as jtw’s, whom I’ll get to later).

There was coverage in The Guardian (as well as elsewhere), there was an event aptly timed at the Wellcome Trust that morning to further discuss the benefits of open, there were armfuls of open data friends taken aback (and rather curious) about a big pharmaceutical company going “open”. 

jtw goes into this in detail (and much more eloquently than I can) over on his blog. The GSK Malaria deposition came whilst we were both at CC, and was one of a number of discussions we were having with various big pharma neighbors in Boston and elsewhere about more open approaches. They were under tremendous financial pressures and looking for a way to breathe a bit of life into stale siloed approaches – and I have to say, it was by no means surprising, but refreshing nevertheless.

One of the companies I currently work with at Digital Science has been working in that space for a number of years now, offering more comprehensive, smarter search for chemical structures in patent documents (think, early-stage drug discovery). They’ve had to rethink their audience and design, as well, to be more open, allow for better integration amongst other open – and sometimes even closed – resources.

It’s an interesting time, but learned first hand in the aforementioned discussions … be mindful that not every “open” listing is truly open. We’re still dealing with disparities in the vernacular we use – and that’s OK. Just go in with open eyes. It’s still a step forward, but the devil is in the details.

Curious to see how this unfolds, but in the meantime, do give jtw’s post a read. 


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