Beyond Open Access And Open Data: Open Science -- And No Patents
from the accelerating-science,-not-making-money dept
Techdirt has been writing about open access and open data in the academic world for some years now. But beyond those important ways of sharing lies a more integrated approach, generally known as open science. Gabriella Coleman has passed on some interesting news from Canada in this field. McGill University's Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI), under the leadership of its director, Guy Rouleau, wants to speed up the translation of research into treatments, and thinks that opening up completely is the way to do that, as Science reports:
any work done [at the MNI] will conform to the principles of the "open-science" movement -- all results and data will be made freely available at the time of publication, for example, and the institute will not pursue patents on any of its discoveries. Although some large-scale initiatives like the government-funded Human Genome Project have made all data completely open, MNI will be the first scientific institute to follow that path, Rouleau says.
Forgoing patent licensing revenues is unusual, but Rouleau makes the important point that early-stage science results are not really worth protecting:
"There is a fair amount of patenting by people at the institute, but the outcomes have not been very useful," he says, adding that the institute would rather provide data that others could use to develop patentable medicines. "It comes down to what is the reason for our existence? It's to accelerate science, not to make money."
This obsession with patenting that bedevils research at many academic institutions, and the poor returns it produces, is something that Techdirt has written about before. Eschewing patents, and sharing results, data, software and algorithms is bold enough, but arguably even bolder is the requirement that collaborators from other institutions must do the same:
The insistence that any organization or institute that collaborates with MNI will also have to follow open-science principles for that project could help to spread the approach, says Dan Gezelter, a chemist and open-science advocate at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. "It's a little bit viral. I've never seen that before," he says.
Well, maybe not in a science context, but of course such reciprocity lies at the heart of Richard Stallman's GNU General Public License. The GNU GPL is also something that is often called "viral", but a better name might be evangelical. Let's hope that MNI's project is as successful in spreading the word about open science as the GPL has been in propagating free software.