Introductory Remarks by Session Chair
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France
Many people agree that public-domain production of and open access to scientific and technical data and information are key features in the process of scientific discovery, invention, and innovation. They constitute a fundamental institutional arrangement and requirement for economic growth and development. The shared collection of data and information provides the building blocks for innovation and invention, and those free journeys through information space are a key factor for the scientific enterprise.
It would be a mistake, however, to think that the old institutional framework that was mainly based on government support must be maintained in the hope that it will continue to support the production of public-domain information. While the old framework did well from the postwar period until the 1980s, the great challenges and issues that Session 5 is addressing concern the new types of institutions and mechanisms that will create favorable conditions for the provision of this kind of public good in the area of basic research in the knowledge economy. The important phrase in the title of this session is “innovative models.” The speakers will try to be innovative and think about the new kinds of institutions that are required, given that the old framework is no longer sustainable.
The first step in the quest for innovative models is to recognize that the public domain, which means public spaces that are conducive to efficient knowledge dissemination, does not necessarily mean “government control” or “public sector.” In particular, collective actions are important in supporting the public domain and open access. Some social scientists call this category of collective action inherently public property, meaning public property that is controlled neither by the government nor by private actions. It is probably this category of public property that will constitute the framework for the revival of the public domain of the knowledge-based economy.
Of course, a variety of innovative models are possible and should be discussed. They include mechanisms aimed at maintaining a public space and open knowledge commons by voluntary means; promoting an ethos of information sharing; open-source movements, supported by very complex incentive structures and by a legal framework that protects the public domain; and by the transfer of databases, information, and knowledge from the private to the public sectors. It is also important to think about mechanisms that use the legal framework of the intellectual-property-right system to impose access rights, such as compulsory licensing and price discrimination.