From Ciphers to Confidentiality: Secrecy, Openness and Priority in Science

British Society for the History of Science, 2012

21 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2014

See all articles by Mario Biagioli

Mario Biagioli

University of California, Davis - School of Law

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

I make three related claims. First, certain seemingly secretive behaviours displayed by scientists and inventors are expression neither of socio-professional values nor of strategies for the maximization of the economic value of their knowledge. They are, instead, protective responses to unavoidable risks inherent in the process of publication and priority claiming. Scientists and inventors fear being scooped by direct competitors, but have also worried about people who publish their claims or determine their priority: journal editors or referees who may appropriate the claims in the manuscript they review or patent clerks who may claim or leak the inventions contained in the applications that cross their desks. Second, these protective responses point to the existence of an unavoidable moment of instability in any procedure aimed at establishing priority. Making things public is an inherently risky business and it is impossible, I argue, to ensure that priority may not be lost in the very process that is supposed to establish it. Third, I offer a brief archaeology of regimes and techniques of priority registration, showing the distinctly different definitions of priority developed by each system.

Suggested Citation

Biagioli, Mario, From Ciphers to Confidentiality: Secrecy, Openness and Priority in Science (2012). British Society for the History of Science, 2012 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2427952

Mario Biagioli (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )

Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall
Davis, CA CA 95616-5201
United States

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