Fostering Innovation and Development
Edited by Christopher Arup and William van Caenegem
Chapter 7: An Introduction to Open Source Biotechnology
Janet Hope I. INTRODUCTION This chapter provides an introduction to the emerging phenomenon of ‘open source biotechnology’ (OSB). It explores a number of questions commonly raised by innovators, intellectual property (IP) practitioners and end users about the desirability and feasibility of translating the open source model of software development into the life sciences. For example: What is OSB? What specific problems is it intended to solve? What are the key elements of an open source approach outside the software context? In the absence of proprietary control over their contributions, why would self-interested actors choose to participate in open sourcestyle collaboration? How does OSB address problems of excessive proprietary control over knowledge inputs? Are there any real-world examples of OSB? And finally, what are the major challenges in implementing this approach? The responses provided to these questions are not intended to be conclusive. Rather, they are offered as a conversation starter for anyone interested in exploring possible applications of the open source model in a new context. For this reason, the discussion assumes no more than a basic knowledge of the relevant fields. II. WHAT IS OPEN SOURCE BIOTECHNOLOGY? OSB is a nascent movement comprising scholars in the disciplines of law, economics and innovation management, scientific researchers and managers in non-profit and for-profit institutions, and social entrepreneurs. Although it is possible to identify a number of individuals who are actively working to make OSB a reality (see VIII below, ‘Are there any real-world examples of OSB?’), this is not a...
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