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to address the tremendous opportunities created by the massive and growing amounts of data generated from recent biological research and technological advances. Thus this symposium on the microbial research commons is timely and fitting in that microbial research affects all these other areas of interest and may contribute to this New Biology initiative.

There are several things we would like to accomplish in this symposium. First, we will look into some of the research and application opportunities that may arise from the sort of improved integration we are discussing. This is the value proposition: What do we gain by this integration?

Then we will review the scientific, technical, institutional, legal, economic, and sociocultural barriers and challenges. We will examine some alternative legal, policy and institutional approaches, such as a compensatory liability regime for the transfer and use of microbial materials, common-use licensing of scientific data and information, open-access publishing, open data networks, and so forth. In this context, it is important to emphasize that open-access publishing is but one component of a Commons, which is a broader concept that encompasses free access with few reuse restrictions on all types of upstream knowledge resources, subject of course to legitimate countervailing policies or requirements. We also will consider information technology, including the impact of new information communication technology tools, such as social networking, data and text mining, and Web 2.0. We will look at governance and institutional designs, principles, and policies, as well.

Because the topics we will address are very broad and encompassing, we designed a program that would allow us to discuss various aspects of these issues in different sessions. In this morning session we will try to establish the context, focused primarily on microbial research, and the opportunities and the barriers. We will look into the value proposition and then also examine the industrial perspective and the concerns of developing countries. Then in the afternoon, we will first analyze access and reuse of microbial materials and then of digital knowledge resources. We will review how the commons models might work for materials and culture collections, including from the legal and economic perspectives, as well as for the digital resources, including Web applications, Web information services, and academic publications.

Tomorrow we will have the thematic focus on microbiology research and applications in energy and environment, and the opportunities they provide in terms of both materials and the digital commons. We will look into issues such as international cooperation, inter-governmental organization, and institutional design for the materials research commons, as well as management of academic journals, data standardization for facilitating interoperability, and economic and institutional issues for the digital commons.

Finally, the last session of the symposium will focus on the governance issues associated with an integrated microbial commons, and, again, there are a few existing approaches that can be reviewed.

Following the presentations in each session there will be panel discussions during which we hope to gather many different opinions and approaches. It is not the symposium’s objective to come up with one consensus, but rather to provide a broad review of the issues that need to be addressed and brought to the forefront.

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