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are leading the way among scholars in the publication of electronic journals, compressing the time between discovery and communication of the results. This phenomenon is accelerating the already rapid pace of discovery and innovation, as the cycle time of discovery, communication, and next discovery is reduced. The committee uses the term "digitization of science" as a shorthand for this phenomenon.
As a consequence, the flow of scientific data and information has been improved, as the cost of publication and of access to information has been drastically reduced. While not all scientists in every country have full access to modern PCs and fast Internet connections, these technologies are becoming widespread and are likely to be ubiquitous in the near future.
This digitization of science has occurred contemporaneously (and coincidentally) with the demise of the great power rivalry of the Cold War. Russian and U.S. scientific relations have become less heavily dominated by security considerations, and this factor also has led to an increase in the availability and transfer of scientific data, as noted in Chapter 3.
At the same time, there have been fundamental changes in how governments in many countries see their role relative to markets. Budget pressures, plus the evident success of market economies, have led many governments to privatize activities previously delivered via the public sector, in hopes of relieving the burden on taxpayers while improving the allocation of economic resources. These pressures have begun to be felt in the area of scientific data; for example, in the United States, Landsat remote sensing was privatized in the mid- 1980s, and some European countries have strongly urged limits on the sharing of meteorological and other data in order to protect the data markets for their government monopolies.
THE TREND TOWARD MARKETS—GOOD OR BAD FOR SCIENCE?
To researchers and educators in the natural sciences, this pressure toward privatization and commercialization of scientific data is of great concern. Many fear that scientific data, the lifeblood of science, will be priced beyond their means, especially in less developed countries. It is argued, correctly, that the conduct of scientific research, including the maintenance and distribution of scientific data, is a public good, provided for by government funding (see Box 4.1). This traditional model1 has worked well in the past, and many scientists2 are of the view that privatizing the distribution of scientific data will impede scientific research.
To the economist, this concern at first seems misplaced. While the conduct of scientific research certainly is a public good, one might consider the maintenance and distribution of scientific data as the provision of one of the commodities used by scientists. This view makes scientific data analogous to the chemicals, computers, and travel that each scientist is free to buy or not, as they best