ensure that the small risks of basic research being misused are balanced with the enormous benefits that accrue from the free exchange of information. Another National Research Council Committee examined the national security implications of access to genomic databases and found that unrestricted access, combined with the development of education programs by professional societies, is the best approach to balancing the advancement of knowledge with protecting the public from misuse of genomic data for bioterrorism threats.12 The federal government’s creation in 2008 of a new category—“Controlled Unclassified Information”—illustrates that restrictions on the sharing of research based on national security concerns will continue to pose challenges to the research enterprise.13

When research is carried out or sponsored by public agencies, the general presumption in the United States is that data generated as part of that research should be publicly available.14 Different considerations apply for research funded by a private company, whether that research occurs within a company or in the academic sector. Though some companies have been experimenting with the benefits of freely sharing results from proprietary research,15 many companies carefully guard this information as a trade secret and a potential source of commercial advantage. Similarly, an academic researcher may temporarily withhold data in order to file a patent or develop a commercial product, even when the research is publicly funded. These issues are discussed later in this chapter.

The cost of disseminating data can be a barrier to its use. Circular A-130 from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) stipulates that government-generated data should be available to users at cost sufficient to recover the expense of dissemination but not higher.16 However, data from private sources, even when purchased by the federal government for research purposes, frequently have high distribution costs and restrictions on redistribution. These costs can be a significant problem for academic researchers who need access to large databases for modeling or data analysis.

Finally, research data may be kept private because the resources are lacking to make data collections available to the public. A project might generate data that could be valuable to researchers in the same or other fields, but the


National Research Council. 2004. Seeking Security: Pathogens, Open Access, and Genome Databases. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.


George W. Bush. 2008. “Designation and Sharing of Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI).” Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies. May 9.


Paul F. Uhlir and Peter Schröder. 2007. “Open data for global science.” Data Science Journal 6:OD36–OD53.


Bernard Munos. 2006. “Can open-source R&D reinvigorate drug research?” Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 5:723–729.


Office of Management and Budget. No date. Management of Federal Information Resources. Circular A-130. Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies. Available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/circulars/a130/a130trans4.html.

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