Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, November 30, 2009

Declaration on science and sharing

The University of Manchester, "Need not greed", say Nobel Prize winners, press release, November 26, 2009.

Some of the world's leading names in science and ethics - including two Nobel Prize winners - have challenged society to rethink attitudes to the commercialisation of scientific knowledge in a ‘Manifesto’ published today.

The renowned group of 50 signatories is led by moral philosopher Professor John Harris and Nobel Prize winning biologist Professor Sir John Sulston, both from the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation (iSEI) at The University of Manchester.

Nobel Laureate and Chair of the Brooks World Poverty Institute at The University of Manchester, Professor Joseph Stiglitz, is also among the signatories.

The ‘Manchester Manifesto’ calls for a reassessment of the current system of patents and intellectual property regulated by national and international laws.

According to Professors Harris and Sulston, the system is in desperate need of change because it excludes poorer people from access to essential medicines and expertise. ...

Professor Harris, who is the Director of iSEI said: "The Manchester Manifesto is a first attempt to answer the question ‘Who Owns Science?’.

"And from our work, it is clear that the existing model, while serving some necessary purposes, also impedes achievement of core scientific goals.

"In many cases access to scientific knowledge and products has been cut off, stopping the benefits of science in its tracks.

"The system restricts the flow of information and it can hinder innovation through the costly and complicated nature of the system. ..."

From the manifesto:

... There is a basic public interest in access to knowledge. ...

Restrictions on access to information at any stage of the innovative process obstruct the flow of scientific information and thereby impede scientific progress. Such restrictions are also contrary to the needs of scientific inquiry and are inimical to openness and transparency. ...

It is not only the intellectual property system that restricts participation in innovation; there is also all too often a lack of strategies to encourage openness of communication, participation in research, and sharing of information and products that result from science and innovation. ...

Scientific information, freely and openly communicated, adds to the body of knowledge and understanding upon which the progress of humanity depends. Information must remain available to science and this depends on open communication and dissemination of information, including that used in innovation. ...

It is clear that the dominant existing model of innovation, while serving some necessary purposes for the current operation of innovation, also impedes achievement of core scientific goals in a number of ways. In many cases it restricts access to scientific knowledge and products, thereby limiting the public benefits of science; it can restrict the flow of information, thereby inhibiting the progress of science; and it may hinder innovation through the costly and complicated nature of the system. Limited improvements may be achieved through modification of the current IP system, but consideration of alternative models is urgently required. ...

See also our past post on the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation.