Ideas to Make Things Better

From time to time an idea to make things better (and maybe improve the world a bit) comes to my mind (or to the minds of people around me). Those are things that I would potentially like to work on or that I think might be worthwhile pursuing.

Please contact me if

  • you would like to work (possibly with me) on any of these things
  • you have feedback or thoughts about any of them or have an idea how to best approach them
  • you have any other ideas you would like me to share here


A Database for Clinical Research

Make a huge database where people can upload medical data in a machine readable format. Categorize it. For example, have a category where people can upload EKG data with their diagnoses, or x-ray scans or whatever. Give patients in hospitals a form where they can opt in to donate their data anonymously to that database. This would just be a database every researcher could use

Edit: something like this is in progress: difuture

Send Blood Donors an SMS When Their Blood is Used – Similarly: Do This For Other Types of Charity

This is already implemented in Sweden. While there is not much research yet (I found this paper), the idea seems promising and not too hard to realize.

Use Spaced Repetition (e.g. Anki) to Provide Learning Tools For Students

Tools like Amboss for medical students or virtually any kind of book or e-learning service provided for students would be much more effective with a spaced repetition program. I believe that this has a huge market potential.

Make Old Windows Automatic

Build a tool that allows to be added to existing windows that allows one to open them periodically for short time intervals. Many people in winter neither want to sleep with the window open nor close. Have a window that opens up every hour for five minutes and then closes again. Saves heating energy and improves sleep.

Make a Service That Offers Customized Pills

My idea is that patients could order customized pills that combines several drugs in one pill that can be swallowed at a time. That makes forgetting pills much harder and increases comfort for the patients.

Edit: not so sure about this one anymore. At least setting it up and getting approval is presumably very very hard.

Ginger Beer

Not really an idea to improve the world, but I really do believe there is some money to be made for a startup here.

A Database for Doctors to Give Each Other Feedback

It happens quite often that I doctors notice mistakes that other doctors have made. The problem: you usually wouldn’t call your colleague to tell them that they have made an error. The solution: An app / website / platform where doctors can give each other feedback, either anonymously or with an option to contact the doctor giving the feedback. One would have to think a bit about data protection, e.g. whether that feedback is allowed to be patient-specific (“you gave XY the wrong drug”) or not (“one shouldn’t give Ibuprofen to patients with renal insufficiency”). The data could also be anonymously collected to analyze about what kind of mistakes doctors make (although that is the most problematic part).

A Database with Epidemiology Forecasting Data Sets

I am currently working on a project in epidemiology that aims to forecast Ebola cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Others have done comparable and even very similar things before me. There are hundreds of different models out there that try to predict how epidemics evolve. However, in contrast to e.g. the Machine learning field that had something like the MNIST data set, none of these models are actually compared against each other. It would therefore be really good to have a data base with maybe 50 different data sets against every single model could be compared against. This allows to see where and why models fail and to compare which fare better for a task at hand.

A Website that shows (and maybe sells) complete travel itineraries including planes

I am currently traveling a lot between Göttingen and London. Unfortunately, there is no single website that allows me to just type in “Göttingen to London” and get suggestions for complete itineraries. Instead, I have to check each mode of transport separately. If I want to fly I can check the different airports near Göttingen by hand as well as the train prices to the airport, but nowhere can I just search for different combinations of planes and trains in one single place. Many people don’t really care whether they fly from Frankfurt, Düsseldorf or Berlin. They just want to get to their destination fast and cheap. This should not be so hard to implement. Contact me, if you want to work on it.

Edit: I guess is relatively close to this. Although not completely what I have in mind.

Medical Grade 3D-Printing

During the Corona crisis, some parts for medical equipment were already 3D-printed for lack of supplies. See e.g. these valves. Offering sterile 3D-printing seems like a good idea for me. The hard bit, presumably, is getting the certification right.

App where you can order from the table in a bar

I’ve seen this in a bar in London (in a Wetherspoons pub). You could simply download the app and order and pay from your table. This makes life much easier for the bar and also easier for the customer who doesn’t have to wait in line. Offering business a solution they could integrate with their cashier systems seems quite promising to me.

A Journal of Negative Results

A lot of experiments get unnecessarily repeated in different labs. They fail every time but the information that something is not working is never shared. However, knowing that an effect does not exist or that something does not work is valuable knowledge as well. That’s why we need a journal that publishes high quality research that failed to allow others to learn from these efforts without having to replicate them themselves. There are already existing things like, but I believe there is still much to be done.

A platform for researchers to pitch ideas

Quite often, researchers leave a lab, e.g. when they finish their PhD. At the point when they leave they have a lot of experience and have thought a lot about different projects. However, often projects get dropped because there is nobody there to continue them. It would be great to have a platform where researchers could pitch ideas they themselves don’t want to or cannot work on. This could be combined in a platform where young scientists could find idea for their theses. (This idea is not mine, but belongs to my friend Robert. I’m happy to put you in contact!)

Kickstarter for Effective Altruists

Have a platform where people can pitch projects and receive funding for these projects. The catch: instead of giving away a product or goodies like with kickstarter, entrepreneurs make a commitment to donate X% of their profits to effective charity every year. “Investors” would therefore obtain a means of leveraging their donations by giving to a startup that will use the money to generate more donations in the future.