Turning to motivation, we do need to understand the incentives for participating in the commons. As noted above, our research on 39 initiatives found strong involvement from private-sector participants. There are six classes of incentives:
- The development of a collegial reputation as a reward for working in open science. This is no longer restricted to public-sector participants; private-sector participants want to signal their quality as allies, particularly for downstream product development. Beyond catalyzation of several initiatives in our study by private sector participants, the recent open donation of compounds and continued creation of open source discovery initiatives by several multi-national pharmaceutical organizations such as GSK, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, and Merck, provide evidence of this need to signal quality and openness to further collaboration for downstream development.
- To generate general reciprocity obligations. I mentioned the complexities and the complementarity between knowledge assets. Both public and private sector participants may want to create reciprocal obligations signaling that they are willing to contribute to the commons so that in the future they can access other external knowledge assets. The creation of open patent pools with multiple contributors can signal this reciprocal obligation assuming equitable contributions and fair access terms.
- To influence adoption of a technology or a technology standard through increased diffusion of knowledge. We saw this in our research with the microarray providers participating in the biotech commons in order to influence adoption of their technology as a standard. However, we must note that there may be positive or negative consequences when you influence the adoption of a premature or insufficient technological standard.
- To improve the aggregate performance of an industry in order to increase safety or regulation associated with that industry as we discussed yesterday with reference to microbiological materials and outputs.
- To preempt rivals. We clearly saw this after the mapping of the human genome, when 10 of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies came together and formed the Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) Consortium to ensure that rivals would not encroach on this territory and build patent fences around critical areas necessary for future product development.
- To share the risk associated with knowledge production. It is important to examine not only the issue of shared implementation from open-source software development and fair access to technology or biotechnology development, but also the way in which a commons serves to enable collaborative knowledge production. For example, in the pharmaceutical industry, the complexities associated with drug discovery are very intense. The risks are frequently too high and many pipelines for new products are