Open and Collaborative Research: A New Model for Biomedicine

34 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2004

See all articles by Arti K. Rai

Arti K. Rai

Duke University School of Law; Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative


The advent of open source software has prompted some theoretical speculation about the applicability of open source production principles to biomedical research. This paper moves beyond theoretical analysis into an empirical examination of biomedical research projects that operate under what might be called an open and collaborative model. Open and collaborative projects represent a fresh approach to biomedicine in that they not only disavow its exclusionary behavior but they also reject its small-lab based structure. The paper argues that open and collaborative biomedical research represents a promising experiment. Not only has it produced software and genomic data that is usable, but the resulting public domain status for this software and data may reduce access and transaction cost problems for follow-on innovators. The model's least intuitive, but most exciting, application may involve wet lab systems biology: in this context, the model may allow a more coordinated and comprehensive attack than has heretofore been possible on the sorts of problems that cause promising drug candidates, particularly for complex diseases, to fail.

Open and collaborative biomedical research does diverge, however, from non-biomedical open source production. Particularly outside the area of software, open and collaborative biomedicine may require restrictions on participation; significant centralization and standardization; reliance on public funding; and limitations on use of copyleft licensing. Additionally, if the model is to gain significant traction, practical problems involving the division of consulting revenues between scientists and universities as well as inefficient biological science publication norms will have to be addressed.

Keywords: Open and collaborative, open source, biomedical research

Suggested Citation

Rai, Arti Kaur, Open and Collaborative Research: A New Model for Biomedicine. Available at SSRN:

Arti Kaur Rai (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative ( email )

215 Morris St., Suite 300
Durham, NC 27701
United States

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