. "14 Final Plenary Discussion." Proceedings of the Workshop on Promoting Access to Scientific and Technical Data for the Public Interest: An Assessment of Policy Options. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1999.
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PROCEEDINGS OF THE WORKSHOP ON PROMOTING ACCESS TO SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL DATA FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST: AN ASSESSMENT OF POLICY OPTIONS
producing a public good. A public good normally is one that does not lose value by use. In this particular situation, we are dealing with a public good that gains value by use. The intent, presumably, of the government supporting the research is to enhance this public good. Any activity that inhibits the distribution of information coming from this is inhibiting the generation of the public good. Anything consistent with that enhancement, any private use, is fine. Any private use that inhibits the distribution, inhibits the growth of the public good, is acting against the government's intent in providing the original support. This provides us with a criterion for defining what is an acceptable contract, what is an acceptable relationship between the private exploiter of the data and the community. This only applies to government-supported research, but that is certainly a significant part of what we have been talking about for the last 2 days.
MR. LEAVITT: May I respond to that? There are some interesting aspects to it, in that the government provides the data and then you can use them but don't own them.
Let's say the data on the temperatures outside are provided to me by the federal government and it has a source of information that becomes very productive and leads to a lot of work. The government's philosophy, which I subscribe to, is that it provided the temperature information and that, therefore, everybody has the right to see the source of the work.
That is fine, and I accept that. What if I would like to keep the source of the work? I could go out and stick a thermometer right next to the government's thermometer and I will provide myself with the exact same information, which now would be mine.
DR. BERRY: If you duplicate, that is fine. Certainly I am not going to go out and do a high-energy physics experiment to duplicate one done at a government laboratory.
DR. SERAFIN: What about a book that is based upon government data, which is freely and openly available? It becomes a best seller and it falls under all the copyright laws, etc. Is that in any way in conflict with your thoughts on public good?
DR. BERRY: Not at all. As long as the authors contributing to that book are free to distribute the information as they wish in their own channels, then that is consistent with continuing to sell the book as a best seller.
MR. REICHMAN: There was one other point that is related to this issue. In the first breakout session there was some discussion of the government data problem. There was some concern about what I have been calling “no-capture,” some no-capture provision. There is a problem with government data when they go into the private sector, where they may be lost often because the government itself doesn't retain further copies of them and they are only available in the private firm's value-added format.
One of the things we were toying with during the Senate Judiciary Committee negotiations last summer was a provision that would require maintenance on a cost-recovery basis of the original data set for scientific and educational purposes in case the data were not available anywhere. All I am saying is that there is a concern that once data have become privatized and value added, that the original data sets not be lost for scientific and educational purposes.
DR. SAXON: Yes, it was in response to that, Jerry, that we recognized that there is tremendous risk associated with the no-capture problem. When you are transferring a data activity to a private entity, and they cease to exist or stop their data activity, the integrity of the data you are providing to be maintained cannot be guaranteed.
DR. SERAFIN: I would like to address that in a slightly different realm. I think there are many circumstances where, in fact, the government will choose to toss away its database because it is provided by some other provider at a cost. I have experienced this in our own laboratory,