IBM Makes News by Donating Disease Predictor to Eclipse

Lora Bentley

Open source software has become so common in so many different spaces that it's no longer big news when a proprietary software company releases another program to the open source community. Especially not when that proprietary software company is as friendly to the open source movement as IBM has been. The timing and content of Big Blue's latest release, however, have given it a place in the spotlight.


For weeks, the world has been abuzz with the story of Andrew Speaker -- the Atlanta attorney who flew to Europe for his honeymoon despite the fact that he was infected with drug-resistant tuberculosis. The questions have run the gamut, from "Why would he do that?" to "How can we prevent it from happening again?" to "Are we ready to address a pandemic if it does?"


Government Health IT reported Friday that IBM has made its Spatiotemporal Epidemiological Modeler (STEM) available via the Eclipse Open Healthcare Framework project. The modeler, according to IBM health care research director James Kaufman, "is a collection of plug-ins that can be used to create flexible epidemiological models, incorporating different regions, species, and diseases."


In less technical terms, according to the article, it can be used to predict how infectious diseases will spread. Its creators also hope it will allow more effective public responses to infectious disease. As Kaufman put it:

We're not there yet, but by forming a global community with an array of expertise, we hope to have a tool that can be used to compare policies and show, given existing financial resources, what is the best option.

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