Open Source Research

This should go without saying for publicly funded research, but I’m aiming for a broader reach here.

Privatizing research has obvious side effects (Slashdot):

Knutsi sends us to the Federation of American Scientists’ blog Secrecy News for a post on how privatization can affect access to research material. The blog tells how a Harvard researcher on the history of nuclear secrecy was denied access that would have been granted in the past. Some followup is in the comments to this reposting of the FAS story.

More access to the fruits of research means more future research being planted, and a greater harvest for us all to look forward to.  I can understand and respect the desire to cling to as much personal benefit as possible, but we are rarely if ever talking about personal benefit.  We find ourselves in a clash between public and corporate benefit, not public and private.  Corporations where originally formed with the responsibility to contribute to the commons.  Now this is no longer the case.  Even allowing this as a good development for society at large, and having sympathy for the corporation’s desires, privatization of research is still highly undesirable from a larger societal standpoint.

We can discuss how to go about protecting corporations intellectual rights (or hopefully, individual ip rights) later.  We first must establish that the gain we stand to net by opening up scientific research is too valuable a resource to allow it to be monopolized by anyone.  We’d be closing off resulting further research, not just the research initially privatized.  We’d also be significantly slowing down progress, as scientists duplicate effort needlessly to arrive at previously grasped solutions.

Scientific advancement is a global concern, and a human one as well.  The great enterprise of discovery is our great responsibility to undertake and protect.

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