Medical research environments are complex, an overlapping set of scientific, medical, ethical, organizational, and regulatory requirements. Most of the technology used in the space is not resuable/repurposable at all. The idea behind the OpenClinica project has always been to be an open, flexible, reusable core for data capture, provenance, and security that can be the basis of diverse clinical research applications. To eliminate continued reinvention of the wheel for these core capabilties, and to be a foundation for more innovative work.
In pursuit of these aims, OpenClinica going forward will have a smaller, more focused core, with pluggable modules that provide user-specific functionality. The modules will be built on a set of common components (such as dashboards & table widgets, a workflow engine, forms, & rules) that help create high-quality, tailored user experiences. A secure, REST API
OpenClinica LLC will continue to develop and release the core code and the common components under open source licenses. Many of the modules we build or contribute to will also be open source, and I hope the same will be true of modules shared by others. We're also making sure there is good compatibility between OpenClinica 3.x and 4 so the path is gradual for the end user.
I'm committed to open source values because I believe it's the best model, long-term, in this domain to create a better mousetrap. We started the OpenClinica project to build a flexible, reusable, shared platform for clinical research. Using a well-known open source license (LGPL) created a basis for transparency and sharing, and helped attract a community. We started a business around it to drive continued development and to make sure a well-packaged, high-quality solution would be available for those who didn't want to fully go the DIY route. Over a decade into the effort, there are thousands of installations of OpenClinica. Extensions and documentation have been authored and shared by hundreds of community members. However, it's also true that 90%+ of the core source code is written by developers employed by OpenClinica LLC. From OpenClinica LLC's business perspective, having thousands of non-paying users helps spread awareness of OpenClinica, and it's great when some of those users become paying customers. But it's very expensive to develop and support this platform, and today it's the paying users who fund the engineers and domain experts that improve the core. External developer participation is what makes the open source project viable, and it's what we need more of to keep as much code as possible open.
In OpenClinica 4, how to build and load a module will be well-defined. Later this month we'll share more technical details about the work so far developing this modular architecture. Modules will build-able by anyone, for your own purpose or shared, open or closed, paid or free, hosted or local. I hope that as a community we can define creative business/sustainability/governance models that incentive us all in the best ways and enable this technology platform to do get better and better.
The plan and vision will evolve, driven by your participation. In true open source fashion, those who contribute most (time, resources, code, documentation, ideas) will have the greatest say. So, please, join the conversation about the future of OpenClinica!
OpenClinica Project Co-founder and CEO, OpenClinica LLC