We offer the following conclusions for consideration by the National Academies as they explore the role of scientific and technical data and information in the public domain:
(1) Openness, by and large and as a guide for public funding of fundamental basic research, is a very successful policy because it generates data that in unpredictable ways lead to exciting insights into nature's workings.
(2) It is the appropriate role of the private sector to exploit open basic research to develop and commercialize valuable products. It is what the private sector is good at. The amount of their investment is large (and may in certain areas exceed that of the public sector) and the quality of the resulting discoveries is very high.
(3) We need to explore aggressively compromises and quid pro quos to attract private-sector companies to loosen their hold on that portion of their data that could benefit fundamental research, but in ways that do not threaten their intellectual property concerns. By working together, in creative ways, everybody can benefit.
(4) We suggest some mechanisms, none particularly novel, that could be used to increase private sector-public sector collaboration. Importantly, we think this is an area of potential opportunity.
(5) Different schemes (e.g., timers, impartial trustees, incentives, bilateral contracts, public-sector–private-sector consortia) can be put to experimental test to learn which work better, with what partners, and under what circumstances. We do not pretend to have all the answers, but we do assert that the exploration is worth undertaking.
(6) If we succeed, the scientific and financial benefits can be enormous; if we fail, so too could be the costs. Science will continue to advance regardless; but for self-evident reasons, we all would like to see it advance as rapidly as possible in the United States.