Disclosure or Secrecy? The Economics of Open Science

25 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2007

See all articles by Arijit Mukherjee

Arijit Mukherjee

Michigan State University

Scott Stern

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: July 5, 2007


Open Science is a dynamic system of knowledge production that depends on the disclosure of knowledge by researchers as an input into knowledge production by future researchers. This paper develops an overlapping generations model of cumulative research to analyze the conditions supporting Open Science as an economic institution. The model focuses on the trade-off faced by researchers between disclosure and secrecy. While secrecy yields private returns that are independent of the actions of future generations, the benefits to disclosure depend in part on the use of disclosed knowledge by subsequent researchers. Each research generation therefore chooses between maximizing the private exploitation of knowledge and earning benefits arising from participation in Open Science. The optimal choice depends on a dynamic equilibrium process, since the returns to disclosure and research investment by one generation depends on the investment and disclosure choices of prior generations, and the attribution behavior of future generations. Potential equilibria include 'Open Science,' 'Secrecy,' and a cyclic structure in which periods of Open Science are followed by Secrecy. The feasibility of Open Science as an equilibrium depends on parameters such as the costs of accessing prior knowledge, and the relative benefits to private exploitation under secrecy versus disclosure. Finally, in parameter regions where both Open Science and Secrecy can be supported, Open Science is associated with a higher level of social welfare.

Keywords: Open Science, Pasteur's Quadrant

JEL Classification: O31, O32, L33

Suggested Citation

Mukherjee, Arijit and Stern, Scott, Disclosure or Secrecy? The Economics of Open Science (July 5, 2007). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=998548 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.998548

Arijit Mukherjee (Contact Author)

Michigan State University ( email )

Marshall Adams Hall
East Lansing, MI 48824-1122
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.amukherjee.net

Scott Stern

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-3053 (Phone)
617-253-2660 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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