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Strategic Plan 2021-2023

Background

The Ersilia Open Source Initiative (EOSI) is a UK-registered charity founded in November 2020 by three early career scientists who share the belief that scientific development in Low and Lower Middle Income Countries is a major player in their way to progress.
Our inspiration to start EOSI is well summarized in this extract from the WHO world health report 2013:
The results of some research studies are widely applicable, but many questions about universal health coverage require local answers. All countries therefore need to be producers of research as well as consumers of it.
The current academic research system concentrates most of the scientific potential in High and Upper Middle Income Countries (jointly, they account for over 90% of the science and engineering publications worldwide). To revert this trend, the research capacity of LMIC institutions must be developed, handing them the leadership of research projects and putting the focus on their interests and needs. This change will enable:
  • The establishment of a prosperous and sustainable research environment in LMICs, involving universities, companies and non-profit stakeholders that informs the policy-making organisms.
  • The development of research lines that have at their forefront the best interests of their countries in health, environmental and technological challenges.
  • The capacity to train the next generation of scientists and engineers, levelling up the education system.
We acknowledge that this is a vast challenge that requires a multi-pronged approach, and, as a starting small NGO, we had to narrow it to a specific area of action. Thus, based on our expertise and previous work, we have focused on:
Drug discovery for infectious and neglected tropical diseases: communicable diseases still account for over 50% of the disease burden in LMICs, but only 10% of the drugs currently in development are tackling this disease area. As diseases associated with poorer regions of the world, the return on investment is deemed too low by the pharma industry, which strengthens the need of LMICs to develop their own solutions, for example by leveraging the natural resources and the hundreds of years of accumulated expertise on traditional medicine and plant-based treatments.
Implementation of artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) methods: AI/ML holds the promise to revolutionize biomedical research. By analyzing large amounts of data in less time, it enables in silico hypothesis testing, experiment prioritization and large-scale studies. Moreover, AI/ML is particularly suitable for low-resourced settings as it is relatively cheap to implement compared to experimental approaches. We believe there is no reason for the best computational centers to be in well-equipped facilities in the Global North. With the appropriate expertise, a moderate investment and leveraging existing cloud computing solutions, any university or research center can become a world class data center.
This strategic plan lays out the direction of EOSI for the next three years and draws the roadmap to set the basis of a strong, sustainable organization that is best positioned to contribute towards the development of a LMIC research network.

Mission

EOSI mission is to strengthen the research capacity against infectious and neglected diseases by democratizing the access to machine learning tools.

Vision

Our vision is that of a world with egalitarian research capacity and access to healthcare.
  • The number of in-house developed models that have been tested in vitro and/or in vivo. We aim to validate at least 10 models per year thanks to our collaborators.
  • The number of papers accepted for publication with EOSI as affiliation, either as first/last author (one per year) or in co-authorship (3 papers by the end of 2023).
  • Scientific audience reached via conferences, which are key to strengthening the research network and finding common interests with other groups, so we aspire at participating in 5-10 congresses/seminars each year.
Resources needed:
  • Collaborators: identifying experimental scientists with whom to establish sustainable and productive bilateral relationships, where EOSI provides the data science expertise and they provide wet-lab capabilities is key to our mission
  • Funding for publications and conferences: EOSI must identify sources of funding to cover open-access fees and conference registration and travel.

Goal 5: Improve EOSI Governance and Organogram

To fulfill the above-mentioned objectives, it is of foremost importance as a recently born organisation that we grow, increasing our operational capacity and involving the community, including stakeholders, beneficiaries and supporters in our activities and decision-making processes, to become an inclusive organization that answers the real needs of those whom it serves.
Objectives:
  1. 1.
    Consolidate the Board of Trustees, engaging people from different disciplines that are highly motivated by EOSI’s mission and willing to serve as trustees, a voluntary position key to ensure the charity’s governance.
  2. 2.
    Create a community of Software developers that are able to provide in-kind support and complement the expertise of EOSI staff.
  3. 3.
    Engage students in short-term, defined projects with the goal of both supporting EOSI’s mission and training the students for future work in academia or enterprise.
  4. 4.
    Scale the operational capacity by recruiting IT personnel that can handle the expansion of the Hub.
  5. 5.
    Build a strong diversity and inclusion work environment.
Measurements of success and expectations:
  • The number of trustee’s, ideally a board of 5 to 6 trustees, which would encompass a sufficiently diverse set of skills and promote a healthy debate on key decisions.
  • The number of GitHub commits as a measure of the open source software community engagement
  • The number of students doing short term projects within EOSI. Due to the current size of the organization, and because we want to give each student the appropriate attention, we would like to have one student per semester only.
  • The number of new personnel joining the organization. We expect to be able to expand our team in January 2022.
Resources needed:
  • Personnel: we believe in the community power and welcome all efforts to support our mission, be it with time, expertise, network or funds, and wish to create a strong group of supporters. Nevertheless, to achieve our goals we must grow sustainably, adding Trustees to our board who can help guide our efforts and team members that supply expertise currently needed.
  • Protocols to ensure we remain an inclusive organization with clear anti-discrimination practices