Attempting to truly improve health outcomes on a global scale is inherently challenging. We believe our proposed plan must effectively address barriers to achieving the following goals:
Keep incentives aligned. Many stakeholders with different goals are involved in making this proposal successful in the long term. Each is involved for different reasons:
Our-Sci.net, FarmOS ⟶ - Strong software development partner with BFA
- Increase size of user base
BFA research partners ⟶ - Access to network of global collaborators
- Access to large public databases
- Strategic partnerships for pursuing grants and funding
Farmers ⟶ - Ability to measure nutrient density on their farms
- Increased value of produce by increasing nutrient density
Consumers ⟶ - Ability to measure nutrient density of produce
- Ability to be part of a movement
These incentives are interconnected, and must grow organically over time. In addition, any features or proposals within this project will be evaluated based on how they impact these incentives.
Ensure the platform stays responsive to nutrient density and human health. A decentralized system cannot be fully controlled. Even with point-of-sale sensor data with nutrient information, one could still imagine gimmicky instruments, diet fads, or poor-quality research all steering consumers and producers away from the real goal of long-term health benefits. Like all communities, cultures change over time in ways that cannot be determined from the outset.
The BFA should act as a buffer against these kinds of negative changes. As a central, respected, and active player in the platform, the BFA will help establish and reinforce a culture of scientific rigor, honesty, and focus on human health. Therefore, long-term BFA funding is not to maintain the platform itself, which will be financially self-sustaining, but to ensure the mission is maintained as the platform grows and changes.
Balance data sharing and privacy. Large-scale data sharing is central to the success of this proposal. Yet real privacy concerns exist – farmers who want to maintain private production information and researchers who must collect human health data according to ethical research standards. How will we balance these needs?
Technically, FarmOS and Our-Sci already have privacy levels to provide users options for their data. In practice, we need design rules to ensure the best outcomes as new features are added. Sharing is the default, anonymized is optional, and private is available when needed. When provided with all options up front, users tend to choose the private option. However, when the default is to share, users are rarely concerned enough to seek private data options. Users who are concerned should be able to find those options.
Foundation to maintain and expand open-source assets
Open-source software and hardware create immense value in the global economy. In 2012, 29 percent of all deployed code is open source, and 50 percent of companies used open-source code.1 The benefits include preventing vendor lock-in, improved security, higher-quality code, and a code-base on which to build business and create value.2
To ensure the longevity and availability of our open-source assets (software and hardware), we need a foundation to maintain, promote, and expand those assets. While the foundation maintains the code, companies and nonprofits (like Our-Sci.net and Farmier.com) will create sustainable commercial implementations and provide services directly to users. The Apache Foundation, the Open Containers Initiative, and the Linux Foundation are all very successful examples that follow this model.
1 Vienna Advantage: "7 Interesting Facts about Open Source Software." http://viennaadvantage.com/blog/technologies/7-facts-about-open-source-software/
2 Red Hat is a good example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Hat