Open Drug Discovery Teams now live on AppStore

The Open Drug Discovery Teams (ODDT) app has now officially entered the public beta phase: it can be freely downloaded from the iTunes AppStore. The app should still be considered to be a minimum viable product, and by designating it as a beta release, we reserve the right to do regular upgrades/maintenance on the back end server. It is, however, highly functional, and definitely ready to take a look.

The development of the ODDT project is described chronologically on this blog: its progress can be observed by skipping back through earlier posts. A brief synopsis of what the project is and what it does:

  • A list of topics that are conducive to open research have been selected. These currently include rare or neglected diseases (e.g. tuberculosis, malaria) and precompetitive initiatives (e.g. green chemistry).
  • The server regularly polls Twitter, looking for topic-specific hashtags. These tweets are assimilated into the ODDT database as factoids.
  • An app for iOS (iPhone, iPod, iPad) provides a magazine-like interface for browsing these topics (inspired by Flipboard). Factoids that contain links to web pages or chemical data are presented along with thumbnails of their content, which is browsable.
  • Users of the app can activate their Twitter account, which allows them to endorse or disapprove factoids, by emitting a tweet. Factoids that fail to obtain a positive endorsement count are eventually retired. Retention and ranking of content within ODDT is therefore crowd-sourced.
  • All of the source content, and modifications to the content, are carried out via Twitter, which makes the data stream completely open.

This is a brief summary of where the project stands now. It’s quite simple, but we have big plans. A few of the enhancements that Sean and I have in mind include:

  • The ability to release new content from within the app.
  • Per-topic participation rankings: the app keeps statistics on which Twitter accounts are used to add or rank content, which will allow us to implement a trophy system for acknowledging active participation.
  • More topics. We currently support 7 rare/neglected diseases, green chemistry, and a topic for general information about ODDT. We will add more topics as the user base grows, and ultimately intend to make it possible for the community to democratically create new topics.
  • The acronym includes the word “Teams” for a reason. We ultimately intend to form a collection of user communities contributing to open drug discovery, and we intend for the ODDT project to evolve into a hub for posting fresh or incomplete data, that can be used, verified and iterated on by other team members: in effect, a kind of real time open science micropublishing platform.
  • More sophisticated cheminformatics: currently the server recognises chemical data (molecules, reactions, datasheets) that have been tweeted out using the MolSync app, or links that go to ChemSpider, and the app understands the datatypes, is smart about browsing them, and can make the data available to other apps. We intend to add more content recognition, as well as features such as structure searching, and assembling multiple data sources into new chemical documents.

These are just some of the plans that we have on the drawing board. As for what they will look like, or what order they will happen in, or what can be found in box-number-three… that may depend on you! If any of this interesting, weigh in with your feedback: we want to hear it.

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