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Online collaboration

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Blogger on global health issues, Christine Gorman, was researching patent issues around "Plumpy’nut," an easy-to-make peanut-based food used to effectively treat malnutrition. (In brief, there are concerns about whether the patent is preventing some who need it from getting it, and even questions about whether the patent is valid.)

Gorman decided to try a collaborative approach - but as many others have found, getting concrete contributions is a challenge:

Online collaboration may be the wave of the future but it’s not so easy to convince people to do it...

This was not the instantaneous burst of community magic that I had hoped for. But a kind of long-amplitude wave eventually did materialize. My old Plumpy’Nut posts kept getting traffic. Maybe I had brought a fast-food mentality to a slow-cooking world.

And indeed, a year after the blog went up (and many months after I stopped posting anything new), I received an e-mail from Martin Enserink at Science, who was working on a story about Plumpy’Nut and wanted to include a sidebar on the patent controversy.

- Global Health Report: What Plumpy’Nut Taught Me.

The first part of online collaboration is making a start, putting it out there, and making it open for people to use. It's hard to say when results will come - but sharing and practicing openness creates the possibility.

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