"Public vs. Proprietary Science: A Fruitful Tension?"

Michigan Law Authors
Publish Date
Academic Medicine: Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges
Publication Type
Journal Article

The authors examine the presumption that basic scientific research is most effectively utilized when the findings of that research are openly disseminated without significant restriction, while research with more practical application should be the prerogative of private enterprise. However, many fields, including molecular biology generally and genomics in particular, lie in the intersection between basic research and application. Moreover, institutional boundaries that once reasonably sharply demarcated basic research from technological development have grown porous, with more academic research finding application in industry. The authors consider the Human Genome Project and rival industry sequencing efforts as a case in point of the new political economy of scientific research. Since the inception of the Human Genome Project, there has been general agreement among researchers that the project would be most advantageous to science if the sequence data were made publicly available, quickly and without restriction. Many of these arrangements required federal agencies and some universities to "maneuver around" the Bayh-Dole Act. In several cases, most notably genomic sequences and the SNPs (i.e., single nucleotide polymorphisms) consortium, it was the pharmaceutical industry that initiated or helped enable the project to ensure open and unencumbered access to information, the type of access that has historically been the provenance of academia and the raison d'ĂȘtre of academic research. The authors conclude by reasserting the value of public science as a broadly valuable and enabling social commitment, not limited simply to the products or technologies it spawns.