Chapter 15 – Intellectual Property in the Context of e-Science

Dan Burk

e-Science promises to allow globally distributed collaboration and access to scientific research via computer network. But e-science network development is already encountering difficulty over the intellectual property rights associated with data and networked collaborative activity. Intellectual property regimes are generally problematic in the practice of science, scientific research typically assumes practices of openness that may be hampered or obstructed by intellectual property rights. A considerable literature has developed documenting and analyzing the impact of patents on research in the biomedical area, and the history of recent major scientific initiatives, such as the Human Genome Project, have been punctuated by clashes over the propriety and provision of patent rights in the accumulated data. This literature is examined in this chapter and is related to innovative proposals such as the open source ‘copyleft’ model. This model might seem an attractive mechanism for preserving similar values in e-science. However, such copyleft instruments are highly specific to the norms and behavioral expectations of the community in which they were developed. The organizational structure of scientific research may not map cleanly onto the copyleft model, and the patent rights implicated by e-science differ from the copyright issues contemplated under copyleft licenses. Consequently, a firm understanding of not only the technical structure, but of the social and communicative structure of e-science will be necessary in order to adapt licensing solutions to the practice of e-science.