Growing the Community

A recent discussion on the OpenClinica users mailing list centered around making OpenClinica more optimal for small, low-budget academic research studies, and how open source community participation is helping OpenClinica to meet those users’ needs.

Regarding OpenClinica’s target audience: OpenClinica is used in a tremendous variety of studies and organizations. Many of these are paying customers of OpenClinica LLC (f/k/a Akaza Research) who are running large GCP compliant, multi-site clinical trials. Clearly we as a company have an obligation and incentive to support them and provide software that fits their needs.

But I also am committed to making OpenClinica (the technology) successful and widely used. We want OpenClinica to power as many studies as possible, both small and large. If you’re determined to scratch down some data into Excel I won’t stop you. But since you’re reading this you likely know the arguments against doing so, and want a more robust solution for capturing and managing your clinical research data. We want lots of OpenClinica researchers, entrepreneurs and service providers to thrive in a growing ecosystem. If you are a researcher with no budget and you need OpenClinica to do X, me and my staff are ready and willing to prioritize getting feature X into a release if we have meaningful participation from community members to get that feature designed, coded, documented, tested, etc. Every participant in the OpenClinica community has the ability to make those contributions and/or to mobilize community participation to get their feature defined and developed. It’s not benevolence or volunteer work – with open source software the benefit you get out is proportional to the investment you put in.

There are growing examples of this participation. But more is needed to truly realize OpenClinica’s potential. As a community, we need to ask: (1) How do we grow participation? (2) How do we make it easier to participate? and (3) What can you contribute?