his concerns about the protection of intellectual property in government-sponsored research.
Gerald Rubin, University of California, Berkeley
Intellectual property rights and research tools present two main concerns for academic researchers. First is the exchange of materials and ideas in a timely and unencumbered way. Second is the allocation of credit and reward for discoveries. Although intellectual property rights have been a source of great concern, intellectual property law as practiced has generally not encumbered the timely exchange of materials and ideas among university researchers.
In 1917, Thomas Morgan, the progenitor of Drosophila genetics research, wrote in strong terms that scientific material and knowledge should be freely and widely circulated. Even into the 1990s, the Drosophila genetics research community has continued to support the free exchange of materials. I offer my own experience as an example of contrasts. My collaborators and I recently published a gene that we had isolated using genetic screening in Drosophila. We also cloned the mouse and human genes, and these were described in the same article. I received six requests from Drosophila workers for these strains, each of which said something like, "I enjoyed your paper. Please send me . . ."—followed by a long list of reagents and then, "Thank you," and that was it. The dozen requests for the mammalian reagents went something like, "We will, of course, consider this a collaboration. Here is exactly what I am going to do with it. . .'' followed by all sorts of stipulations. [This exemplifies Stephen Hilgartner's observations in chapter 4 that practices of sharing material information can differ widely—even between closely related subfields. Hilgartner also notes that access practices are probably most intensively shaped not at the level of a discipline, but at the level of relatively narrow subjects of research, where the force of individual personalities has substantial influence on how research is practiced. This may also illustrate another one of Hilgartner's points which is that narrowly focused competition tends to influence practices of sharing. Human and mouse genes are more likely to have commercial value (whether as strategic intellectual property or for their value as products on the market) and might thus increase the level of competition for sharing.]
Some of the problems in the scientific community with the exchange of material are due more to commercialization than to intellectual property laws. There are problems when academic researchers get money from industry and when the industrial collaborators impose constraints on when and where people can distribute materials, but these problems are not with patent law.
Most academic scientists would agree the patent laws can cause problems with respect to the fair allocation of credit and reward. Academic researchers are