Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

OA as response to research bottlenecks

Robin Cooper Feldman and Kristopher A. Nelson, Open Source, Open Access, and Open Transfer: Market Approaches to Research Bottlenecks, Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property, forthcoming, posted May 2, 2008. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)
One of the most hotly contested issues in the field of intellectual property law concerns the existence, or non-existence, of patent thickets and the extent to which any such bottlenecks may be interfering with research. ...

Stepping back from the rhetoric a bit, this piece suggests that one can sometimes indirectly observe effects, even if one cannot directly measure the extent of a phenomenon. ...

Open Source, Open Access, and Open Transfer indicate ways that those in the markets for scientific research have tried to develop strategies to address research bottlenecks. These approaches suggest that relevant market participants perceive impediments to their activities and are sufficiently motivated to develop avoidance behaviors.

The implications one can draw from the observations above are quite modest. ... [O]bservations about the three open system approaches described above cannot claim that these three systems can reveal the only places in which research bottlenecks are occurring. Nevertheless, they do suggest that research bottlenecks do create significant problems, substantial enough the research community itself has tried to develop pathways to mitigate the problems.

One could argue that the development of these pathways suggests that research bottlenecks are not a problem with which courts and legislatures should be concerned. Perhaps those in the relevant field have proven perfectly capable of adapting to any thickets or bottlenecks that occur. The solutions described above, are limited at best. They cannot cover all participants, they provide only partial solutions to the problems that they identify, and in some cases, they have met with limited success. Thus, they are more useful for confirming the existence of a problem in scientific research than they are for demonstrating the ability of those engaged in scientific research to solve the problem.

It is particularly interesting to note that all three approaches involve coordinated efforts. In other words, evidence of coordination of efforts could suggest that the problems are intractable on an individual level. This is precisely the type of problem that would benefit from governmental efforts. ...
Comment. The paper also contains a thorough (several page) discussion of OA, including analysis of recent events. I skipped it in the excerpt, since it's familiar to most longtime readers of OAN, but mention it here as a potential starting point for someone interested in a thorough introduction to OA.