First Open Science Summit: Updating the social contract for science

Christine Peterson from the Foresight Institute will be presenting on “Safety and Security Concerns, Open Source Biodefense” at 5:15 PM on Friday, July 30, 2010 at the first ever Open Science Summit being held at the University of California, Berkeley campus, July 29 – 31 2010. From the Open Science Summit website,

Despite nostalgic myths that Science is the realm of open inquiry, reasoned debate, and the pursuit of objective truth, it has always been politicized, though never to the dangerous degree attained just in the past decade. The viciousness of the fight over embryonic stem cell research, the conflict over creationism, and the politics of climate change are unprecedented new lows. Public confidence in science and technology is deeply shaken, as the outcry over genetically modified organisms attests. When biotechnology, the veritable “toolkit of life,” that could feed the hungry, heal the ill, and fuel the economy without despoiling the environment, is greeted with suspicion and downright hostility, we must acknowledge a deep failure. Citizens and consumers correctly worry that science has sold them out, as companies compromise safety and engineering standards in the dash to control the marketplace.

Beginning in the mid 1980’s a few judicial decisions, with no public or policy deliberation whatsoever, opened the floodgates to an exponential expansion in the filing of patents covering new subject matter and technologies that were never anticipated in the industrial age during which the system evolved. Indeed, there is a growing consensus that the unchecked proliferation of intellectual property rights is perversely out of touch with, and downright inimical to, the collaborative, cumulative, and interdependent essence of innovation in the 21st century’s networked knowledge economy. [emphasis mine] As the global economy struggles to find a new equilibrium after the financial meltdown, it is indisputable that old business models are unsustainable—this applies equally, indeed, especially, to technology and biomedicine, where cycles of over-hype, under-deliver, bubble then bust, have failed to produce cures for desperate, disappointed, and now disillusioned patients, bold proclamations of a “War on Cancer,” notwithstanding.

Then they start discussing alternative models and innovation,

In the last ten years, a collection of burgeoning movements has begun the herculean task of overhauling the outmoded institutions and worldviews that make up our global scientific governance system. Proponents of the Access to Knowledge movement (A2K) have united around the principle that data and knowledge are “anti-rivalrous,” the value of information increases as it spreads. Open Access Journals have demonstrated a new path for publishing that utilizes the power of the internet to instantly distribute ideas instead of imposing artificial scarcity to prop up old business models. “Health 2.0” entrepreneurs are seeking to apply the lessons of e-commerce to empower patients. However, these different efforts are each working on a piece of a problem without a view of the whole. It is not sufficient or realistic to tweak one component of the innovation system (eg, patent policy) and assume the others stay static. Instead, dynamic, interactive, nonlinear change is unfolding. The Open Science Summit is the first and only event to consider what happens throughout the entire innovation chain as reform in one area influences the prospects in others. In the best case scenario, a virtuous circle of mutually reinforcing shifts toward transparency and collaboration could unleash hitherto untapped reserves of human ingenuity.

I know it’s a little high-minded but it’s important to be idealistic every once in a while as I think your soul shrivels up otherwise. Unexpectedly, there’s a Canadian connection. I recognized two participating organizations (although there may be more) from Canada, the University of Calgary and the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia.

If you can’t attend, there will be a livestream by, you can find the details here.

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  1. Pingback: Open Science Summit nears « FrogHeart

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