Open science versus commercialization: an Open Debate in Genome Medicine

In the first Open Debate published in Genome Medicine, Timothy Caulfield and colleagues investigate the potential conflict between open science and commercialization policies in genomics research. Tackling an issue that’s fraught with controversy, the authors discuss the inconsistencies in messages aimed towards promoting openness or commercialization of science, and offer a solution for integrating both movements.

In recent years, there has been a lot of emphasis on data sharing and transparency of scientific communication to maximize the impact of research, especially in the fast-moving field of genomics. Researchers are encouraged to adopt the open science model, but on the other hand, they are also under pressure to translate their findings into commercially useful products. In this article, Timothy Caulfield, Shawn Harmon and Yann Joly examine the open access and commercialization policies that dominate biological research institutes in Canada, USA and UK. Drawing examples from policy documents generated by key public funding bodies and research councils within these countries, they highlight the contradictory messages that could make the two models irreconcilable. At first glance, finding a middle ground seems unachievable, but Caulfield and colleagues provide hope to researchers that by working collectively and collaboratively, the scientific community could develop a flexible framework that makes the best of both paradigms.

The article highlights an issue that is relevant to all researchers faced with two opposing sets of policies when they make a grant application, in the genomics field and beyond. As the authors conclude, there are many unanswered questions and further empirical research is needed. For now, the debate remains open and in the related editorial, Genome Medicine editor Rebecca Furlong encourages readers to join the discussion.


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