Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Open access to research infrastructure

The June issue of First Monday is now online.  None of the papers is on OA to research articles or data, but these six are on open access to research infrastructure:

  • Paul Avery, Open Science Grid: Building and Sustaining General Cyberinfrastructure Using a Collaborative Approach.  Abstract:   I describe in this paper the creation and operation of the Open Science Grid (OSG), a distributed shared cyberinfrastructure driven by the milestones of a diverse group of research communities. The effort is fundamentally collaborative, with domain scientists, computer scientists and technology specialists and providers from more than 70 U.S. universities, national laboratories and organizations providing resources, tools and expertise. The evolving OSG facility provides computing and storage resources for particle and nuclear physics, gravitational wave experiments, digital astronomy, molecular genomics, nanoscience and applied mathematics. The OSG consortium also partners with campus and regional grids, large projects such as TeraGrid, Earth System Grid, Enabling Grids for E–sciencE (EGEE) in Europe and related efforts in South America and Asia to facilitate interoperability across national and international boundaries.

  • Dan L. Burk, Intellectual Property and Cyberinfrastructure. Abstract: The development of a new generation of cyberinfrastructure promises to increase and facilitate globally distributed scientific collaboration as well as access to scientific research via computer networks. But the potential for such access and collaboration is subject to concerns regarding the intellectual property rights that will be associated with networked data and with networked collaborative activity. Intellectual property regimes are generally problematic in the practice of science, because scientific research typically assumes practices of openness that may be hampered or obstructed by intellectual property rights. These difficulties are likely to be exacerbated in the context of networked collaboration, where the development and use of intellectual resources will likely be distributed among many researchers in a variety of physical locations, often spanning national boundaries. Such issues may be addressed by a combination of public and private approaches, including amendment of U.S. law to recognize transborder collaborative work, and adoption of clarifying contractual agreements among those who are collaborating via cyberinfrastructure, including cautious adaptation of “viral” licensing from the open source coding community.

  • Sara Boettiger, Issues in IP Management to Support Open Access in Collaborative Innovation Models.  Abstract:   Building Web–based collaborative environments to encourage innovation in patentable technology provides different challenges than those found in the realm of copyrightable material. Cyberinfrastructure can be designed to encourage a free exchange of information and ideas that produces well–documented benefits for collaborators. But this may come at the cost of foregone patent rights, as the disclosure of information can limit options to patent. If the goal is open access, though, some argue that the predisposition toward the public domain is an important element. This essay argues that achieving openness in fields of patentable technology may require cyberinfrastructure that is designed to accommodate flexibility in the management of intellectual property. First, the potential value of patents is explored as they support the goal of open access. For some technologies, collaborative cyberinfrastructure may inadvertently restrict open access because placing a technology in the public domain removes the leverage a patent owner has to influence downstream activity. Second, this paper considers the potential role of defensive publishing in cyberinfrastructure; a lack of control over how the inventions are published may make it easier for others to surround the published technology with patents, ultimately limiting open access. In some instances, strategic defensive publishing may be warranted in order to place technologies more securely in the public domain. Both of these discussions explore the likelihood that designing cyberinfrastructure for innovation in patentable technology fields demands a keen understanding of the interface between the public domain and patents, and also a balance between retaining options for IP management and enabling the fluidity of collaboration.

  • Brett M. Frischmann, Infrastructure Commons in Economic Perspective.  No abstract.  Excerpt:  This essay briefly summarizes a theory (developed in substantial detail elsewhere) that better explains why there are strong economic arguments for managing and sustaining infrastructure resources in an openly accessible manner. This theory facilitates a better understanding of how these fundamental resources generate value for society and how decisions regarding the allocation of access to such resources affects social welfare. The key insights from this analysis are that infrastructure resources generate value as inputs into a wide range of productive processes and that the outputs from these processes are often public goods and nonmarket goods that generate positive externalities that benefit society as a whole. Managing such resources in an openly accessible manner may be socially desirable from an economic perspective because doing so facilitates these downstream productive activities. For example, managing the Internet infrastructure in an openly accessible manner facilitates active citizen involvement in the production and sharing of many different public and nonmarket goods. Over the past decade, this has led to increased opportunities for a wide range of citizens to engage in entrepreneurship, political discourse, social network formation and community building, among many other activities.

  • Arti K. Rai, Knowledge Commons: The Case of the Biopharmaceutical Industry.  No abstract.  Excerpt:  While they have resisted legislative reform, pharmaceutical firms have repeatedly engaged in private action to promote commons of various sorts. This article describes, and compares, two types of commons creation in which pharmaceutical firms have recently engaged. In one case, the aim has been to defeat a proliferation of upstream property rights that might threaten an “anti–commons.” In the other, the aim is to solve the daunting research problem of predicting drug safety and efficacy ex ante, before expensive failures in late–stage clinical trials or after the drug has been marketed.

  • Joel West, Seeking Open Infrastructure: Contrasting Open Standards, Open Source and Open Innovation.  No abstract.  Excerpt:  While “open” normally has connotations of public goods, the idea of “open”–ness has been used for decades as a competitive strategy by firms in the computers and communications industries. Phrases like “open standard,” “open source” and more recently “open innovation” have been used to refer to these strategies.  What do they have in common? Which ones really are “open”? What does “open” mean, anyway?  To consider the issues faced in the creation and adoption of cyberinfrastructure, here I contrast firm strategies for these three types of “open”–ness in the context of their respective business models....After considering the general issues of openness in IT systems, I look more specifically at the questions of openness as they related to a possible cyberinfrastructure designed to enable new forms of scientific research and collaboration in the twenty–first century

  • Sacha Wunsch­Vincent, Taylor Reynolds, and Andrew Wyckoff, Implementing Openness: An International Institutional Perspective.  Abstract:   The debate on “openness” has tended to focus on standard setting, software copyrights, patent policy and collaborative innovation models – large issues that evoke heated debates that take on a quasi–religious dimension. As these issues start to enter onto the mainstream public policy agenda of many countries, moving these ideas from punditry to policies is not obvious.  But openness also manifests itself in less visible, more tractable issues such as open access to infrastructure, scientific research and use of public data and information — fundamental elements of “cyberinfrastructure.” While perhaps less visible in the public debate, these elements provide lessons on how to implement openness into public policy and outline an ecology for supporting openness. Our experience reveals that it is important to break down the issues into practical elements that bureaucracies can implement, where metrics can be devised that allow dispassionate economic analysis, where divisive issues can be isolated, and where the stakeholders are not so diverse.