Will Building ‘Good Fences’ Really Make ‘Good Neighbors’ in Science?
Problematic issues are raised by the expressed intention of the European Commission to promote greater awareness on the part of scientists in the “European Research Area” about intellectual property rights and their uses in the context of “Internet intensive research collaborations.” Promoting greater awareness and encouraging more systematic usage of IRP protections are logically distinct, but as policies for implementation – especially within the EC’s Fifth Framework Programme – the former can too readily shade into the latter. Building “good fences” does not make for “good (more productive) neighbors” in science. Balance needs to be maintained between the “open science” mode of research, and private proprietary R&D, because at the macro-system level the functions that each is well-suited to serve are complementary. Recent policy initiatives, particularly by the EC in relation to the legal protection of property rights in database, pose a serious threat to the utility of collaboratively consttructed digital information infrastructures that provide “information spaces” for voyages of scientific discovery. The case for alternative policy approaches is argued in this paper, and several specific proposals are set out for further discussion.