Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, October 22, 2007

Removing obstacles to the sharing of physical material

Thinh Nguyen, Science Commons: Material Transfer Agreement Project, Summer 2007.  (Thanks to Kaitlin Thaney.)  Excerpt:

Access to unique research resources, such as biological materials and reagents, is vital to the success and advancement of science. Many research protocols require assembling a large and diverse set of materials from many sources. Yet, often the process of finding and negotiating the transfer of such materials can be difficult and time-consuming. The ability to locate materials based on their descriptions in journal articles is often limited by lack of sufficient information about origin and availability, and there is no standard citation for such materials. In addition, the process of legal negotiation that may follow can be lengthy and unpredictable. This can have important implications for science policy, especially when delays or inability to obtain research materials result in lost time, productivity, and research opportunities. These transactional barriers for material transfer may ultimately have more impact on the productivity of basic laboratory science than concerns related to patents or other intellectual property....

Science Commons’s Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) Project seeks to reduce unnecessary barriers to the transfer and reuse of basic research materials and reagents, for both United States and international scientific collaboration, by proposing a scalable and flexible infrastructure for searching, negotiation, and tracking....

Reducing the time it takes for scientists to obtain basic research materials is vital for accelerating scientific discovery. Standardization of policy, contracts, and technology is necessary in order to deliver the relatively frictionless transaction systems that have revolutionized Web commerce. The system that we propose, which includes greater use of standard contracts, a Web-based rights description framework, and other educational tools, is the first step in that direction. The possible benefits will accrue not only to immediate stakeholders, in the form of cost savings and increased productivity, but ultimately to society as a whole from greater innovation and scientific progress.