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Publicly-Funded Research Data is Public? 85

Posted by Cliff
from the if-you-paid-for-it-shouldn't-you-be-able-to-use-it dept.
Elektroschock asks: "Public data belongs to the public, some advocates believe. BSD Unix is one of the most striking business examples of that 'public data' rule. Gauss and Google made patent data available. But what about classical research results? Should free access to knowledge get regulated? A new petition supported by Open Society Institute wants free public access to research: 'Evidence is accumulating to indicate that research that is openly accessible is read more and used more and that open access to research findings would bring economic advantage'. How do scientists feel about it? Does public funding really turn their results into public property?"
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Publicly-Funded Research Data is Public?

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  • seems like a good counter example.
    • by Ironsides (739422)
      "A few household chemicals in the proper proportions." would seem to be a better one. Much easier to get a hold of the components.
    • by hey! (33014)
      Not really.

      Often in engineering the most important thing to know is that something can be done. Oh, having the details may spare you a few years of toil, but a nation with access to fissionables and with physicists at its disposal will get there sooner or later. Most likely sooner.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by displague (4438)
      The Princeton Plasma Physics Lab [pppl.gov] does fusion research and development, and because it is Department of Energy [doe.gov] funded everything there, including salaries, is available to the public on request.
  • I don't know if it is open but if it is not it should be.
    • by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000.yahoo@com> on Thursday January 18, 2007 @02:38PM (#17668514)

      I don't know if it is open but if it is not it should be.

      Not all public research data is open or publicly available. For instance the NCI, National Cancer Institute [cancer.gov], spent $183,000,000 developing Taxol [fsu.edu], a drug used in the treatment of cancer. What did the NCI do with the research data it came up with? It sold the data to BMS, Bristol-Myers Squibb, for $43,000,000. Not only did BMS pay less than 1/4 the cost of developing Taxol but it also got exclusive rights to the research. It was estimated that in 2000 BMS was to make $1,000,000,000, one billion dollars, in sales of Taxol, and another billion per year thereafter.

      Falcon
  • by Anonymous Coward
    They often complain that the "data" provided is obfuscated or mischaracterized.
  • free (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spune (715782) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @09:00AM (#17662596)
    If public money funds research, it is unthinkable that the public should be forbidden to review the product of their contributions. Even things that GWB would label 'threats to national security'; the government exists to facilitate public interest, not to manipulate us like pawns. We have a right to know what is going on, and in the case of research, there is little, if any, defense provided in saying that information is simply too dangerous for normal people to know.
    • What about AIDs related data? Do you think information that contains personal data should be released to the public? I'm all for data being available but some of it really should have some restrictions to protect privacy.
      • There is a HUGE difference between public research results and public research data. Many studies involve confidentiality, no one is suggesting this be removed.
      • by milamber3 (173273)
        Wow, you should really know at least a little about clinical research before you come posting nonsense about revealing private data. Everything of this nature is covered in HIPAA the IRB approved protocol that governs the study. Even the people who pay to read the research can not get that kind of identifying information. The group that conducted the study will have any Personally Identifiable Information (PII) that they collected locked up safe and/or encrypted in their database for the set number of ye
        • Isn't the point of the article though that information funded publicly is public? HIPAA and IRB could arguably be restrictions to portions of the data but one could argue that if that information is publicly funded then it too should be open. You are terming the data as private but it could still be publicly funded and therefore could be released under the premise that all publicly funded data is public. HIPAA and IRB (sorry...not familiar with IRB) are essentially rules for protecting data but it isn't
    • For the most part I'd agree. It should be freely accessible --to a point, depending on many criteria. But free to whom, the whole world or only to the citizens of the goverment governing the taxed citizens (their money) in question or any denizen of the world? How would we keep it from getting into thte wrong hands?

      And what about publicly funded high-technology? The sort that other countries with less cash or resources go about doing industrial espionage for.

      Let's say the feds fund some ultra-secret

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sancho (17056) *
        It's not really all that complicated.

        Anything which the public is allowed to have (I.E. it's not classified as top secret or as a something which is illegal for civilians to possess) should be publicly available. For anything else, it's largely irrelevant.

        The problem here is that tax dollars are being funnelled into companies so that they can research. They then turn around and get patents on the work so that they can exclusively provide that product or service.

        I might be ok with one or two years of exclu
    • by kabocox (199019)
      If public money funds research, it is unthinkable that the public should be forbidden to review the product of their contributions. We have a right to know what is going on, and in the case of research, there is little, if any, defense provided in saying that information is simply too dangerous for normal people to know.

      I read this and just giggled. Of course, we don't have a right to alot of the R&D that government does on our behave. That just pressed slashdot buttons right there. I'll tell you 3 thin
    • by deblau (68023)
      Almost all work that goes on at the NSA, CIA, and the rest of the three letter agencies is funded by public money -- your position is tantamount to putting a 'research exception' into the entire classified documents system. Read this [fas.org], which is everything you need to know about the system. The U.S. Treasury funds all sorts of nuclear weapons research programs, missile R&D, naval warfare tests, etc. You want everyone in the world getting their hands on that data?? Truth is, you really don't have a rig
  • yes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lavaface (685630) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @09:01AM (#17662604) Homepage
    absolutely public data should be public, just not mine ; P Seriously, if taxpayer money is used, the public should be able to access the results of studies, etc. To a large extent, I would argue it's already like this. Many academic publications are available online at the local state university. Of course, not too many people use that resource. The real travesty is when public money is used to fund research that benefits the public, but the fruits of the research are appropriated and patented by corporate concerns like pharmaceutical companies. The USGS lockdown of some map data is another example of abuse of public knowledge. I also happen to think the national telecommuncations infrastructure should be nationalized, but that's another discussion . . . ; )
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by yankpop (931224)

      Many academic publications are available online at the local state university.

      The publications are available, to anyone living close enough to a university to use the library. But the data is most definitely not. Open access data, at least in biology, is still the exception, rather than the rule. Even with journals that have online supplements, the extra material is usually more detailed analysis, not the data itself.

      The exception in my field relates to gene sequences, which must be submitted to an ope

    • by shalla (642644)
      Seriously, if taxpayer money is used, the public should be able to access the results of studies, etc. To a large extent, I would argue it's already like this. Many academic publications are available online at the local state university.

      Except that the library has paid for those, and access is generally limited to students and faculty, and the library does not OWN the results (even if the research was conducted at that university) but rather is paying a vendor for licensed, limited-time access. And it's
  • It seems to me that we (the public) pay taxes to a government for research that bends the truth or tells us flat-out lies in addition to keeping some of their research a secret. Is that what we're paying them for? Would anything stop them? Most importantly, does anyone care?... or would they rather just "live their lives" and not have to worry about what their government does?
    • That is really a different issue, but probably a bigger issue. The question of research being made public that was done with public funds, is yes!

      The US Government really needs to overhaul how public funds are spent on research. IMHO, the government should only be spending money on fundamental, groundbreaking type research. A good example of this is stem cells, the government should no longer be funding any type of stem cell research, the basic understanding of how stem cells work has been done, the work no
      • by LurkerXXX (667952)
        Hi, Ph.D. Biology researcher here.

        A good example of this is stem cells, the government should no longer be funding any type of stem cell research, the basic understanding of how stem cells work has been done, the work now centers around finding applications for them,

        You have no clue what you are talking about here. There is a lot of the biology of stem cells that we simply don't understand at all yet. There is a ton of basic research that needs done to understand how they do things. All that is basic fun
        • If there really is basic research still to do, fine, but if that research has any applications to real products, then public money shouldn't be used, because ultimately a corporation will benefit from it and that is just another form of corporate welfare, and the government shouldn't be in the business of helping private corporations!

          Most of the articles I read, addressing the lack of public funding for stem cells, centers around research for specific applications, such as MJF's push for using stem cells to
          • by LurkerXXX (667952)
            I don't work for any companies, so I'm not about creating a product. I'm doing basic research to understand biology. I don't directly work on stem cells, so this debate has nothing to do with my livelihood.

            Most of the articles I read, addressing the lack of public funding for stem cells, centers around research for specific applications, such as MJF's push for using stem cells to find a cure for Parkinson's, that is a specific application of stem cells and should be pursued with private funds

            As a research
            • "If we were talking about the government spending money for a technology widget for a computer or TV I would agree with you, but we are talking about medicines here,"

              Then we disagree, because I see no difference, in the end, both constitute corporate welfare. No where in the Constitution or in natural law is there a right to a healthy life, just to life itself.
              • by LurkerXXX (667952)
                Where in the constitution does it say there is a right to have well maintained roads with few potholes? Guardrails on the road? Good lane markings and signs? Nowhere. But the government spends money on all those thing, and actually pays companies directly to do them. OMG, corporate welfare!! Why do we do that? Because society as a whole benefits from those things. The same with medical research.

                I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.
                • All good points! I never said the government should be spending money on ANY of those things, we were just talking about one small area that the US government wastes money, there are PLENTY of other examples, SS, Medicare, "bridges to no where", congressional pay raises, how many different "intelligence" agencies does one government need?, etc...

                  BTW, in the Ohio the lane markings are absolutely the worst I have ever seen (they all but disappear when it is raining at night), and I clearly (no pun intended)
  • The data should be public but I would just add one small caveat. There should be a substantial delay in releasing the data in order to give the sponsor the first go at publishing it.

    It's the same thing that they do with Hubble images. If you take all the time necessary to write a (lengthy) proposal to have the HST take a picture, then you patiently wait (perhaps years) for your turn in line, then finally you get your image - but some other random shmoe throws together a paper describing it, well, how much
    • Don't forget that, using similar logic, some Senator (Arlin Specter, R-PA, I think) wanted to force NOAA to stop distributing its weather satellite imagery and data. He wanted it only available through commercial organizations like AccuWeather and The Weather Channel.
      • by oni (41625)
        Don't forget that, using similar logic

        I don't see how it's similar logic at all. A weather satellite is pointed at the Earth and takes pictures of the Earth. That's all it does. What is AccuWeather's contribution? Not a whole lot. AccuWeather just wanted the government to package up a business model and give it to them as a gift.

        Compare with what I said about the HST. The HST looks at an area of the sky about the side of your thumb held at arms length. How does it know where to point? Well, some sci
        • by M1FCJ (586251)
          Science is always driven by "publish first or die" doctrine. If you come up with the constant before Hubble, that means you are more clever than Hubble himself and worthy of the "Oni Constant". AS long as you cite Hubble, you are fine and Hubble should be satisfied (albeit, and a bit crestfallen).
          • by oni (41625)
            Science is always driven by "publish first or die" doctrine. If you come up with the constant before Hubble, that means you are more clever than Hubble himself and worthy of the "Oni Constant".

            It's possible you missed my point. Good science - that's my point. How many observations do I have to make in order to call it good science?

            Hubble knew that he needed a lot, on the order of 40. But the trend became apparent early on. So after only five or six observations, I could have published "the Oni Constant"
        • by M1FCJ (586251)
          Oh well, IMHO, Hubble is overrated. If Henrietta Leavitt didn't exist, Hubble would have never come up with the distances of the galaxies therefore no Hubble constant. :)
    • by Cyberax (705495)
      If some poor schmoe is able to do all your multi-year work in a few days then maybe you deserve it.
      • by munpfazy (694689)

        If some poor schmoe is able to do all your multi-year work in a few days then maybe you deserve it.

        Perhaps, but a more relevant case is that some poor schmoe with the same knowledge and tools as you but with more time to devote to the analysis of a particular data set is able to do your work a little bit faster than you.

        In the field where I work (cosmology with ground based CMB telescopes), a team of twenty people can easily work full time for years building an instrument. Tends of man-years are spent inst

        • by Cyberax (705495)
          So? You know, those telescopes, particle accelerators are built (and funded by taxpayers) not to allow your team to take a credit for some piece of new knowledge. They are built to advance science.

          If someone can do analysis faster and cheaper than you can - let them do it.

          If you built a super fine tool - you should have your bit of fame from all research done with this tool, because you really deserve it. But not releasing data to public to gain some fame from exclusive access to data - that's selfish.
    • If you're talking on the order of a 6 month embargo, I could see that. If you're talking two years, I'd have to say that's too long.

      I may be biased on the matter, as one of my duties is to distribute some public research data. The data that we generate is released immediately, except for new missions, which have had embargos until they could finish testing the instruments. The data we get from other locations may be embargoed for a few months.

      For those who are new to the topic, I'd suggest you take a loo
      • by jstomel (985001)
        You've obviously never tried to get a paper through the peer review process. Believe me, 6 months is way too short, a year at a minimum. It really does take that long to publish in the scientific community.
        • by oneiros27 (46144)
          I haven't, but in theory, everyone else would have that same problem -- so you'd still have a 6 month headstart in the process. Let's also not forget that if people were to be unscrupulous, there's the whole pre-print process were someone could get a head start.

          And in some cases, it's not the data itself that gives away what was going on -- eg. K40506A [caltech.edu].

          Also, people are free to find other funding for their efforts, if they want an extended embargo period, or to never release their data.
    • The data should be public but I would just add one small caveat. There should be a substantial delay in releasing the data in order to give the sponsor the first go at publishing it.

      Yes, a sponser, ie someone who pays for it, should get first dibs. So when it's the taxpayer paying they shoud get first dibs too and have it placed in the public domain.

      Falcon
  • Yes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Metasquares (555685) <slashdot@NoSPAM.metasquared.com> on Thursday January 18, 2007 @09:10AM (#17662734) Homepage
    I've often wondered why, if the scientists themselves are willing to publish results for free, the journals don't follow suit? When I began doing research, I was a student in a university that did not have access to all of the journals I needed. This was incredibly frustrating and may have negatively impacted my research, as I was unable to do an extensive literature review (there are only so many times one is willing to pay for articles before the bill gets quite large). Perhaps most universities have access to the journals, but the journals don't have any right to restrict access to others' research in the first place, IMO.

    This happens in music as well. Trying to find free sheet music of classical public domain works can be quite challenging, though projects like Mutopia are beginning to change this.
    • I may have been answering a slightly different question than the article asks.

      I am also of the opinion that any work receiving public funding should be made public. It isn't that common for research to be kept private, though; scientists generally want to publish. A more common scenario may be patenting publicly-funded research, which still necessitates disclosure (but prevents anyone else from acting upon that disclosure).

  • yes! (Score:2, Informative)

    by metalcup (897029)

    I am a researcher (biologist). Since I work in a university, all my experiments have been funded by the tax-payer - hell, even my salary is paid by the tax-payer! So I believe publicly funded research data must be public.

    I think the primary problem with a model where everyone has acccess to such research has been the fact that scientific research is distributed in the form of peer-reviewed scientific journals - which required paid subscriptions. However, in the last 3-5 years,some very respectable and h

    • I believe you left out a step in your argument:

      I am a researcher (biologist).
      Since I work in a university, all my experiments have been funded by the tax-payer - hell, even my salary is paid by the tax-payer!
      [I am a basically honest person and don't let greed run roughshod over my sense of what is right]
      So I believe publicly funded research data must be public.

      Of course, it's possible to deduce what the missing step was from context.

      --MarkusQ

    • by tenco (773732)

      However, in the last 3-5 years,some very respectable and highly cited open access journals have come up - check out www.plos.org or Biomedcentral http://www.biomedcentral.com/ [biomedcentral.com] - they are open access publishers who don't charge for access - instead, they charge the authors for the publication costs.

      For Physics, Mathematics, CS and Quantitative Biology:

      Arxiv [arxiv.org]

      • by Abcd1234 (188840)
        Arxiv is not, AFAIK, peer reviewed. As such, you'll find an awful lot of crap in there.
  • Information acquired under the patriot act?
  • As a scientist funded by the U.S. National Instiutes of Health, the answer has already been chosen. The NIH requires that all data be made freely accessible to the public within one year of generating a published report of the data. And that all manuscripts be made freely available within 6 months of publication.

    I completely agree that this is the way things should be. The people of this nation pay my research bills, it should be their data. However, if I innovate something, I am free to file a patent. In f
    • The people of this nation pay my research bills, it should be their data. However, if I innovate something, I am free to file a patent.

      That may be the system now, but I think that is morally wrong. If the research leading to the "innovation" is publically funded, then the innovation should be publically owned.

      IMHO, any of the following should apply:

      1. patents resulting from publically funded research should never be granted (i.e. its free and open tech)
      2. drug companies with publically funded patents sh
  • by ObiWanStevobi (1030352) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @09:27AM (#17663006) Journal
    Under the guise of national security, the executive branch can censor or block any research they see fit, even from congress, let alone citizens. A George Bush signing statement expanded this saying that the executive branch can withold any research that could impair the workings of the exective branch.

    Dec. 30: When requested, scientific information ''prepared by government researchers and scientists shall be transmitted [to Congress] uncensored and without delay." Bush's signing statement: The president can tell researchers to withhold any information from Congress if he decides its disclosure could impair foreign relations, national security, or the workings of the executive branch. Link [boston.com]

    Although I am sensative to the free information argument, I can see witholding things like weapons research, nuke material transportation and gathering, etc. There are just some things the sick people who have a need for such things should have to do on their own. What bothers me is any research that could impair the workings of the executive branch. Lets say the executive branch is working on promoting revised environmental policy loosened emmissions to save money. This would seem to say they could withold any public research that would hurt their goal.

    So public research is not required to be given to the public, or even anyone besides the president. Should it be? I'd say in a vast majority of cases, yes. But I do think it is best we withold info that would make creating advanced weaponry easy for others.

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)
      A signing statement does not modify any law. A signing statement is a petulant child whining about the rules he is told to follow.
      • It modifies the intent and interpretaton of the law by courts and sets guidelines for the enforcement of the law by the executive branch. If the law is enforced per the signing statement, which it is, the statement might as well be law.

        A good explanation here [usdoj.gov].

      • by krlynch (158571)

        A signing statement is not "a petulant child whining about the rules he is told to follow". Nor is it law, and I don't think I've ever seen any serious claim that it is. It's more akin to "legislative history", congressional "fact finding", and executive orders, which also aren't "law" in the Constitutional sense. A signing statement is nothing more than a statement by the executive branch on what IT thinks a law just signed means, on its reach in the face of conflicting requirements that arise in other

    • Possibly releated to this is the Invention Secrecy Act of 1951. Here's a good summary page about what happens to inventions that are considered "too sensitive" to national security: http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/invention/index.ht ml [fas.org] I wonder if most people realize this provision exists in the patent law for the government to keep information quiet, and it really makes me wonder what might be contained in the some 4800 patent applications.
  • by Sunburnt (890890) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @09:28AM (#17663022)
    Read up on the Bayh-Dole Act. [wikipedia.org] This is the specific reason why your research tax dollars generate stock value as opposed to public knowledge.
    • by Sunburnt (890890)
      I should probably note that while the effects of this law are not universal, they are widespread, giving universities every incentive to set publicly-funded research goals based on marketability as opposed to scientific or practical necessity. Hence, antidepressants instead of a deeper understanding of the brain and mind. The effects of Bayh-Dole on medical research are appalling. (Not that the government, were it still to retain patent rights to federally-funded discoveries, would be much less resistant
  • by rockmuelle (575982) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @09:29AM (#17663034)
    Publicly funded results should be made available, but the funding source should also provide the funding to do so. Going from the raw data used to produce the results in a research study to raw data that can be used by other researchers is an expensive process. There are a number of workflows and tools used in processing the results that will not be available to other researchers. The common FOSS argument is only use open tools, but for many scientific applications, this is not possible. Just try telling an engineer to give up Matlab for medium-scale numeric computing in favor of your favorite scripting language. They won't accept it, and for good reasons.

    Instead, the funding sources (e.g. NSF, NIH, DOD, etc) should include additional support in grants for the final step of making data available in a common format. Scientists can use their favorite tools for this and commercial tools can simply support the open publication formats. Better yet, create a National Data Repository whose purpose is to handle the final data preparation and dissemation.

    For publically funded software, a similar process should occur. Most research software, while useful for a very narrow set of example applications, is not developed to the point where it is usable outside these tight constraints. This is simply because there is no research incentive to go any further than "good enough for publication". Without requiring specific languages, the funding agencies should provide enough money to finish the software engineering process and enable truly reusable software results. Some labs already meet this standard, but it's not cheap (they usually have a full time development staff in addition to the grad-student and post-doc researchers).

    Most scientists don't have the time or resrouces to change current process, so it's really up to the public to not only push for open data, but also suggest and support realistic approaches to the problem.

    -Chris
    • by krlynch (158571) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @11:25AM (#17664778) Homepage

      Publicly funded results should be made available, but the funding source should also provide the funding to do so.

      If by "results" you mean raw data, then the funding is a significant problem in almost every field of scientific endeavor. But it's not just the funding. For any non-trivial experiment, the raw data is meaningless to all but a very small number of actively involved investigators. To make that raw data available in a form that would be potentially useful to the vanishingly small fraction of people capable of doing something would add months or years of work to most projects (documenting, archiving, documenting, and documenting some more, etc.). A large fraction of useful and important projects could become fiscally infeasible to operate. Further, funding for short projects would have to be continued for years or decades to maintain and support archival maintenance of data that no one (including the original collectors!) cares about any longer.

      Take an example from my own current research work in high energy physics: I work on a "small" experiment involving about 20 physicists. Over the 7-10 year life of the project, we'll collect about 200TB of data ... that's almost nothing in the grand scheme of modern high energy physics experiments. We already have to deal with not having enough funding to maintain all that data live _for our own analysis_, much less for public consumption; we need months of CPU time just to convert the raw data to an intermediate format for further analysis. The goal of the experiment is a measurement with a precision of 1 part per million; nderstanding the detailed subtleties of the physics, geometry, hardware, software, firmware, human interaction, numerics, mathematics, external influences like cosmic rays, etc. is the work of a number of PhD, Master's and Bachelor's theses over that 10 year period. We're talking a few hundred man-years of work here. And when the work is all done, we'll publish a few papers, and then the collaboration will scatter to the proverbial winds, moving on to other projects. There won't be anyone left to spend their time and energy maintaining the raw information that went into the experiment, documenting things at the level necessary for outsiders to be able to do anything with it, answering questions, etc. More importantly, no outsider will ever be able to understand the experiment at the level necessary to get the "right result" from it, because they won't have ever gotten their hands dirty with the hardware and data taking.

      This is the sort of idea that is emotionally compelling, but makes little sense to anyone that has actually done the hard work of taking and analyzing data in the real world. The immense fiscal costs of such a policy will bring nothing more than illusory benefits, and are just not justified in my opinion.

  • Ethical positions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hey! (33014) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @09:43AM (#17663252) Homepage Journal
    There are three classes of ethical theories in use: theories of rights, theories of utility and virtue ethics.

    Under a theory of rights, it is hard to see how the public is not entitled to data that it paid for. If the public is deprived of the data, then the taxation used to pay for the data becomes theft.

    Under a theory of utility, the question becomes whether the public benefits more from privatising public data or from putting it in the public domain. This has to be judged on a case by case basis. It is possible that medical research might need to be privatised in order to get commercial distribution of otherwise unprofitable treatments. The geographic data in question is so immediately useful that the public does not need a third party to "commercialize" it.

    Under theories of virtue, the question is whether the public character is enhanced most by open exchange of data, or by privatising data. I think there is plenty of opportunity for private enterprise to add value to data, so on the whole openness is better.

    Of course, what is going on here is that public agencies want to do more with less funding. Usually this is a good thing, but in this case they are ignoring the overall public good. What they are doing is reducing the amount of taxation (good), but turning a portion of that taxation into theft (bad).

  • No, most publically funded research is not available to the public, at least not for free.
    But it's not just the public money that is spent on research that is misappropiated, it is
    in fact the entire infrastructure that private corporations get use of for next to
    nothing.

    Most university departments "cooperate" in research with private corporations in that
    those corporations put the professors in charge of the dept on their payrolls. They in turn
    "align their research" with what the corps want and put the univer
  • I look at it like this. If you are a reasearcher working for a private company and the owner of the company tells you that he/she wants to see all of your data (both raw data and analysis/conclusions), you are surely going to give them the data. (assuming you want to remain employed). In my mind, the same thing applies to publicly funded research. In this case, the owner of the data is the taxpaying public. And the data should be available to them. I think that when the results of research are publishe
    • by dahl_ag (415660)
      I am familiar with the vast amount of astronomy data that is available and have used it in the past. (It is interesting that astronomy has such a strong amature component that makes real scientific contribution.) I guess I wish other fields were making their data as EASILY available as the astronomy community is. In this internet age, you have to wonder why some fields are more likely to preemptively make data available than others.
  • This suggests there is something wrong with the current system...

    In the current system, journal and libraries charge a fee to
    1) pay for editors who have some knowledge of the material
    2) pay for the administration of the peer-review process
    3) pay for distribution costs

    It is not like you really pay for access to the research. There are simply costs associated with ranking the research relative to other research via peer review (and this is essential), and costs associated with distribution.

    As it is now, if yo
  • Imagine if the University Of YourState had done the aol search log research ( http://aolsearchlogs.com/ [aolsearchlogs.com]). The reported legitimate user of that data was Phd students in computer science and information retrieval. Making things public is nice, but I would hesitate to take it full speed and make a law requiring it (which with all things slashdot, it's all or nothing). Not because there is no review, but because, like the case of aol, there was review but they were scientists, not security experts and hosed it u
  • I am a publishing scientist, and have published data funded by public dollars (US government) in scientific journals, and so I have a ethical opinion to share, as well as a practical one which slightly contradicts the ethical one.

    Ethical opinion: Absolutely - data created with public money should be free and available to the public that paid for it. So in the case of a US government grant (say from National Science Foundation or even Office of Naval Research) US citizens should be allowed to access the da
  • Well, of course the taxpayers should end up "owning" whatever it is that they buy.

    But I do have one alternative to it being free, that I think would be just as fair. First, make sure you account for whatever the taxpayers really paid into it. Then, that figure becomes the minimum bid in an auction. If private parties want to own the research, make 'em pay a fair market value for it, into the public fund.

  • If it's publically funded, it is morally bankrupt to restrict access to those who paid for it.

    Imagine you receive a bill from the publically owned water utility. You pay them $500 as required by law, and they still cut your water off. Then they send you another letter, saying that if you want water, you'll have to negotiate an additional water-access contract.

    People would never stand for that. Why should access to publically funded research results be any different?

  • Having worked for both the Federal gov't and a number of contractors (including one I owned), I can say the following:

    Anything written by a gov't employee is not subject to copyrighting (17 U.S.C. 101). If something is written by a non-gov't employee using gov't funds, I'm not sure entirely what the rules are, but it is not necessarily not copyrighted. I know this because if a gov't employee writes a journal article, the article is not copyrighted, but if someone (professor/contractor/etc) working on gov
  • ...before Google got to them, just go to uspto.gov. I'm sure the Google interface is much easier to use though.
  • The company I work for often receives data from, and shares data with, Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The data we share is regarding the environment, specifically diesel emissions. Clearly the research benefits U.S. citizens and poses no security risk and should therefore be publicly available. But there are definitely cases where data should not be made public. Nuclear energy research, any weapons research, and combustion research could fall into that category amongst many others. Sure tax payers paid for

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken

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