Humanity’s urgent need for a vaccine, or set of vaccines, for SARS-CoV-2 needs no elaboration. Quite simply, this is one of the more pressing scientific/humanitarian needs of the century.
There is an enormous amount of ongoing work in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. The bulk of it, however, is along business-as-usual lines, with heavy competition among companies, even nations. (See “Search for Coronavirus Vaccine Becomes a Global Competition,” NY Times, March 19, 2020).
In open source software, not only are the incoming and outgoing results widely usable, but the very process of development itself, the actual daily work, is open, collaborative, global. The magic of this collaboration created, for example, Linux, which dominates the supercomputer market, and the LAMP stack, which birthed the World Wide Web. Can we learn from these principles, and apply them to the process of vaccine R&D?
If we were really serious about developing a vaccine, we would not work through single labs, or even consortia. Rather, we would have the entire world look at the problem at once.