mediated by the prevailing structure of data-streams in particular lines of research. Access practices are probably most intensively shaped not at the level of the discipline or field, but at the level of much-narrower links of research, such as disease-gene mapping, that can be defined in terms of a characteristic data-stream and a particular competitive structure.
If that is true, then one might ask in which lines of research one would expect to find intellectual property considerations producing the largest reductions in openness. The data-stream perspective suggests that the answer might depend in large part on the specific competitive structure of a field of research. In a field characterized by races with intense zero-sum competition, commercial concerns will probably not have a pronounced effect; even in the absence of the potential for profit, the reasons for restricting access are already strong. For example, even if disease genes could not be patented, the winner of the race to find an important gene in the late 1980s could expect substantial rewards. At that time, few human disease genes had been cloned, and cloning one constituted a major achievement.
However, it is important to recognize that intense zero-sum competition is not the typical situation in academic research. In many fields, scientific goals might not be sufficiently well defined, agreed on, and focused on identifiable targets to inspire races among rivals with the same finish line in mind. Instead, research might be exploratory; and in some cases, only one laboratory might be pursuing a given line of investigation. In the absence of focused competition among research groups, openness might be relatively unrestricted. Consequently, one might expect the greatest reductions in academic openness to be provoked by introducing the prospect of commercialization into less-competitive situations.
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