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5 - Linkages Between the Market Economy and the Scientific Commons

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 May 2010

Keith E. Maskus
Affiliation:
University of Colorado, Boulder
Jerome H. Reichman
Affiliation:
Duke University, North Carolina
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Summary

Introduction

Modern capitalism has been a powerful driver of technological advance. Analysis of that process has emphasized the business firms and entrepreneurs that develop and introduce new products and processes. However, it is also widely recognized that the power of market-driven invention and innovation often is dependent on the strength of the science base from which they draw. This science base largely is the product of publicly funded research, and the knowledge it creates is generally open and available for potential innovators to use. That is, the innovative and dynamic components of the capitalist engine depend extensively on a publicly supported scientific commons.

In this chapter, I argue that the scientific commons is becoming privatized. While this privatization has been limited to date, there are real dangers that unless arrested soon, important portions of future scientific knowledge will fall outside the public domain. This outcome could be harmful for both the future progress of science and for commercial technological progress. The erosion of the scientific commons will be difficult to contain, much less roll back. In this essay, I wish to raise basic concerns and to suggest a promising strategy for containing the damage.

Before making this case, I need to clear some intellectual underbrush. As discussed later in the chapter, a number of influential philosophers and sociologists of science have put forth a theory about the generation of knowledge that until recently has served well to protect the scientific commons.

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