A Framework for Analysing the Microbiological Commons
International Social Science Journal, Vol. 188, pp. 335-349, June 2006
15 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2007 Last revised: 18 Aug 2017
Date Written: 2006
In an earlier article, “Ideas, artifacts and facilities: information as a common-pool resource”, we examined the role of collective action in building robust knowledge commons and in circumventing trends of enclosure and privatisation of the intellectual public domain. Our analysis suggested that collective action and new institutional design play as large a part in shaping the collection, distribution, and preservation of scholarly information as do legal restrictions and market forces. The microbiological commons extends well beyond the boundaries of e-prints and other full-text research documents that are the focus of the open access movement. It includes the contents of scientific databases, research archives, and multimedia publications which all need to be seamlessly integrated. In addition, the global, biological commons is also comprised of social networks and social capital. The success of freely sharing microbiological data will require a complex blend of technology, scientific content, metadata standards, open source software packages, negotiated and respected intellectual property rights agreements, sustainability and preservation design mechanisms, evolving rules and institutions, and, ultimately, a firm commitment on the part of providers and users to the common good.
The adaptation of the "commons" to the realm of knowledge and information is a relatively recent phenomenon. Prior to the mid-1990s, the commons referred almost exclusively to shared land to and other types of natural resources (Hess 2000). The commons conveys the notion of shared ownership, participation, and responsibility. Where the term "commons" has recently arisen, as with scientific information and the intellectual public domain, it is a rallying cry to protect and sustain free and open access.
Keywords: microbiological commons, new commons, knowledge, information
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By James Boyle