As society continues to evolve and develop, we are faced with increasingly complex problems. Whether related to healthcare, the environment, or energy, some find these problems to be so vast and complicated that they throw up their hands and say, “What could I possibly do?” When MolSSI Director T. Daniel Crawford, Ph.D., looks across the scientific landscape and sees those same, complex problems, however, he can’t help but also see the huge unlocked potential. “Some of it is human potential and some of it is tools our scientific community has been developing for decades,” Dr. Crawford explained. “Some of those tools do great work for how they are currently being used but could do so much more.” Through the Molecular Sciences Software Institute (MolSSI), the ability to address larger and more complex problems is more within reach.
Our world is up against increasingly difficult challenges because of problems that transcend industries and disciplines. To truly effect change, a solution cannot be within one niche branch of science. Rather, the scientific community at large must partner with the software and computer engineering community to collaborate on complex solutions and the creation of necessary tools to answer those questions. “We could attack those types of problems more directly if the tools we are developing knew how to talk to each other and had fundamental design principles,” Dr. Crawford said. Thus, the MolSSI is a critical nexus for scientific discovery and advancement.
Good communication is a core component of success. Within the realm of the MolSSI, this manifests itself as software solutions that move towards consistent processes and development and have widespread implementation across the community at large. When everyone is using their own disparate solutions, inconsistent formatting, usefulness, and reliability of data is more likely. “The community tends to produce a tremendous amount of data but it is still very hard to share,” said Dr. Crawford. One goal of the MolSSI is to create alignment within the community that produces relevant and trustworthy results in a consistent and sustainable manner.
The reality is that the MolSSI cannot force standardization on the community. While the MolSSI is a formal institution, there is also a critical grassroots component that requires buy-in and input from the community at large. The role of the MolSSi is to create the conditions for those conversations to happen. The MolSSI provides the resources to help the multi-disciplinary community agree on necessary standards and consistencies, and to take an accelerated approach to bringing about effective solutions.
Centralized and standardized science produces a great deal of hope that problems plaguing our world will soon have reliable and meaningful answers. There are those who ask, “What can I do?” and it remains rhetorical. When Dr. Crawford asks himself, “What can I do?” the answer is the MolSSI.