Designing the Microbial Research Commons
Proceedings of an International Symposium
Paul F. Uhlir, Editor
Board on Research Data and Information
Policy and Global Affairs
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. OCI-082173 and by the Department of Energy Grant No. DE-SC0002579. This report was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the United States government. Neither the United States government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States government or any agency thereof. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
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Steering Committee for
Designing the Microbial Research Commons:
An International Symposium
Dr. Cathy Wu, Chair,
Edward G. Jefferson Professor of Bioinformatics & Computational Biology
Delaware Biotechnology Institute
University of Delaware
Michael Carroll, J.D.
American University, Washington College of Law
Dr. Micah Krichevsky
Dr. Michael Lesk (NAE)
School of Communication, Information and Library Sciences
Dr. Stephen J. McCormack
Chief Executive Officer
Dr. James Staley
University of Washington
Dr. Larry Smarr (NAE)
Director, California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology
Professor, University of California San Diego
National Academies Staff
Paul F. Uhlir, Director, Board on Research Data and Information
Preface and Acknowledgments
The opportunities to accelerate scientific discovery and resulting applications are made increasingly possible by technological breakthroughs and pioneering methods to process and integrate vast amounts of data, information, and raw materials. Microbial research, which is outgrowing its “small science” institutional structures, should consider building upon these opportunities in an attempt to develop a global microbial research commons to promote access to databases, literature, and materials through an open, digitally distributed network. However, the increasingly blurred line between basic and applied research confers potential economic value even upon research inputs that are far upstream. As a result, the research community is increasingly being forced to come to terms with commoditizing pressures within developed economies. These pressures restrict the conduct of public-sector research through strong intellectual property rights and related contractual restrictions on access to and use of materials, publications, and data. At the same time, restrictive policies in developing countries under the Convention on Biological Diversity complicate research uses of microbial materials held in public repositories ex-situ, and make it increasingly difficult to access the vast in-situ materials these countries control.
These trends have led to a proliferation of diverse licensing strategies and techniques, which collectively have elevated the transaction costs and other barriers for even relatively simple cooperative research projects. There is, thus, a need to focus on the obstacles to upstream, non-commercial research and the solutions to them. An early step is development of a set of design principles that address the economic, legal, and institutional dimensions of the transformation of the existing research infrastructure into what could become a globally distributed and digitally integrated research commons. The goal of this redesigned “soft” infrastructure would be to better manage publicly funded research resources, without compromising downstream commercial applications and fruitful partnerships between the public and private sectors, or between developed and developing countries.
Of course, a variety of responses is possible. Some are more conservative with respect to an understanding of the scientific “commons” as a common resource available on a nondiscriminatory and non-commercial basis, whereas others may be based upon a pro-actively managed or regulated set of practices. These latter responses would compromise the conservative view in the interest of achieving greater patronage and participation of actors who have other motives and rationales for participation. A more detailed discussion of the “commons” concept is provided in the presentation by Paul David in Chapter 3 and Charlotte Hess in Chapter 25, as well as from various other perspectives of course throughout this volume.
The Board on Research Data and Information held an International Symposium on Designing the Microbial Research Commons at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC on 8-9 October 2009. Organized by a separately appointed Steering Committee, this symposium expanded on prior international discussions on the same topic at a conference in June 2008 in Ghent, Belgium (see: http://www.microbialcommons.ugent.be/). The October 2009 symposium addressed topics such as models to lower the transaction costs and support access to and use of microbiological materials and digital resources from the perspective of publicly funded research, public-private interactions, and developing country concerns. The overall goal
of the symposium was to stimulate more research and implementation of improved legal and institutional models for publicly funded research in microbiology.
The International Symposium on Designing the Microbial Research Commons focused on accomplishing the following tasks:
- Delineate the research and applications opportunities from improved integration of microbial data, information, and materials and from enhanced collaboration within the global microbial community.
- Identify the global challenges and barriers—the scientific, technical, institutional, legal, economic, and socio-cultural—that hinder the integration of microbial resources and the collaborative practice of scientific communities in the microbial commons.
- Characterize the alternative legal and policy approaches developed and implemented by other research communities, such as common-use licensing for scientific data and information, standard-form material transfer agreements, open access publishing, and open data networks that could be applied successfully by the microbial research community.
- Define the contributions of new information and communication technology (ICT) tools in building federated information infrastructures, such as ontologies, data and text mining, and web 2.0.
- Discuss and evaluate the institutional design and governance principles of data and information sharing among information infrastructures, drawing upon and analyzing successful and failed case studies in the life sciences.
- Identify the range of policy issues that need to be addressed for maximizing open access to materials, data and literature information in an integrated microbial research commons.
The statements in this volume are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views of other workshop participants, the steering committee, or the National Academies. The symposium agenda is provided in Appendix A and the list of the meeting participants is presented in Appendix B.
On behalf of the Board, we gratefully acknowledge the support for this project of the Department of Energy under grant number DE-SC0002579, and from the National Science Foundation under grant number OCI-0821873, as well as the core support it has received from the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Technical Information Center, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Library of Congress.
This volume has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for quality. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the process.
We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of selected papers: Minna Allarakhia, University of Waterloo, Canada; Subbiah Arunachalam, Consultant; Nancy Connell, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey; Michael Carroll, American University; Melanie Dulong de Rosnay, Communia; Micah Krichevsky, Bionomics International; Michael Lesk, Rutgers University; Elinor Ostrom, Indiana University; James Staley, University of Washington, Seattle; and W. Edward Steinmueller, University of Sussex, UK.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the content of the individual papers. Responsibility for the final content of the papers rests with the individual authors.
We would especially like to recognize the contributions of Daniel Cohen, on assignment to the National Academies from the U.S. Library of Congress, who assisted with the editing and the production of the manuscript. Subhash Kuvelker and Cheryl Levey of the Board staff also helped with the review process and the preparation of this volume. Finally, and not least, we would like to thank Fran Sharples, director of the Board on Life Sciences, for her assistance with the project.
Cathy H. Wu
Paul F. Uhlir
|Steering Committee Chair||Project Director|