When speed truly matters, openness is the answer

Bioethics 23 (7):385-393 (2009)
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In this paper I analyse the ethical implications of the two main competing methodologies in genomic research. I do not aim to provide another contribution from the mainstream legal and public policy perspective; rather I offer a novel approach in which I analyse and describe the patent-and-publish regime (the proprietary regime) led by biologist J. Craig Venter and the 'open-source' methodologies led by biotechnology Nobel laureate John Sulston. The 'open-source methodologies' arose in biotechnology as an alternative to the patent-and-publish regime in the wake of the explosion in computer technology. Indeed, the tremendous increase in computer technology has generated a corresponding increase in the pace of genomics research. I conclude this paper by arguing that while the patent-and-publish method is a transactional method based on the exchange of extrinsic goods (patents in exchange for research funds), the free and open-source methodology (FLOSS) 1 is a transformational method based on a visionary ideal of science, which leads to prioritizing intrinsic goods in scientific research over extrinsic goods.



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