In the words of the 33rd US president, Harry Truman – “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
These words have never been more relevant, especially considering the current global arms race to defeat COVID-19.
This kind of global collaboration is not completely new, especially in tech and academic research.
In tech, the rise of open-source software has given access and popularised the industry amongst many who initially may never have had the chance to engage.
This improved accessibility is a big reason behind the widespread tech take-over of our lives.
When it comes to academic research, there have been universities such as MIT, which have committed to making their information freely available in order to bridge the gap in education access.
This same sense of ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ mentality has been at the core of the research sector for decades.
Despite escalating divisions between US President Trump and Beijing, as they blame each other for the spread of coronavirus, the people of the world are banding together in this crisis.
Even if politicians bicker and play political point-scoring with people’s lives, the connected peoples of the world understand they must look after each other.
In some countries where there is an inherent distrust in politicians, people have taken matters into their own hands.
A pertinent example is that of Jeremey Howard’s #masks4all campaign on Twitter.
Jeremy Howard is best known for developing fast.ai, a website that seeks to make deep learning more accessible to people.
The seasoned data scientist, who I follow closely on Twitter, found an interesting trend that suggested countries where mask-wearing was practiced, flattened the curve much quicker than those that saw it as taboo and over the top.
Many went after him, including myself, about his call for #masks4all, because authorities had been requesting masks be prioritised for health professionals.
However, he stuck to the data and found cases around the world to support his claim.
Howard has even posted videos of how to make your own, including DIY mini factories in places like the Czech Republic.
His advocacy eventually paid off with The Washington Post publishing his article about DIY masks and advocating the benefits of everyone in the community wearing them in public.
This opinion piece likely became the linchpin for a change in public opinion as many on Twitter began to photoshop masks onto their display pictures.
In the last few days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, followed by President Trump have followed suit and even recommended American citizens use items such as scarves as DIY masks amid the shortages.
This very successful campaign should also be framed in the context of the worsening crisis in the US, as the fight between state governors and the federal response team has led to unnecessary bureaucratic roadblocks in delivering adequate care.
In light of President Truman’s famous saying, the world is moving faster than ever to find a cure for this currently cureless menace.
What would typically take 12 months, has been crammed into two months with researchers all over the world working round the clock to find a solution.
Health authorities are currently warning against self-medicating in order to get a better understanding of dosing and the drug’s use in the real world environment, beyond that of a petri-dish.
A very similar phenomenon was found in America when there were promising signs of chloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, being a viable treatment.
Both Chloroquine and Ivermectin are currently being trialed for better understanding of their effectiveness.
The first trials for vaccines have been in place since mid-March.
A company by the name Moderna had a 63 day turnaround between receiving the genetic code of the virus to beginning clinical trials in human patients.
To put this in perspective, the fastest turnaround before this was for the Zika virus.
That happened in 190 days and that was considered lightning-fast.
The spirit of global cooperation on issues that matter is alive and well among the citizenry and the world of research.
It’s time the ruling-class heeded the words of former President Truman and started collaborating in good-faith.