Abundance Journal/Peer review

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The Free and Open Science/Technology Paradigm

Imagine a vastly accelerated research and development cycle using an entire Open Innovation process from start to finish. In both commercial and academic labs, scientists would log results using Open Protocols such as Open Wetware. In the next stage, scientists submit to Open Access journals—but the process of peer review would be ongoing as "real time publication" allowed researchers to transform results into a publication along a continuum that ranged from initial reports to rough drafts to final submissions. A paper would never be "finished" as critique and response would be ongoing long after publication. New, sophisticated reputation "feedback" algorithms (like those powering Ebay or Amazon but designed for science), supplant the old static journal model. Young post-docs, instead of laboring under a stultifying grant system that rewards conservatism and incrementalism, pitting researchers against each other for an artificially limited number of spots, could simultaneously compete and collaborate with others around the globe, using platforms such as that being developed by India's Open Source Drug Discovery Foundation.

Work done on open source projects would allow young researchers to build prestige, without regard to traditional hierarchy. New funding mechanisms such as microfinance for science and Open Innovation prizes, would spur progress and provide further incentives. Next, research tools would be widely shared and disseminated, not hidden behind industrial secrecy or priced out of reach via an exclusive license. Platform "enabling technologies" in some of the most important emerging biomedical fields (gene therapy/stem cells) would be maintained as a "protected commons." Such "Open Standards" in biotech would clearly benefit all interested parties, especially patients desperately awaiting cures. The widespread penetration of these "upstream" technologies would utterly transform the landscape of the biotechnology industry, disrupting concentrations of power that have accumulated over the past few decades and allowing entire ecologies of enterprise to spring up, colonizing "niches" that multi-nationals neglect in the pursuit of only the highest margin returns.

In this revitalized context, as technologies approached commercialization stage, a huge variety of business models would be available using non-exclusive licensing and Open Source inspired agreements where appropriate, or allowing royalty free use for "neglected" diseases, crops, etc. Whatever model a particular company pursued would depend on its particular sector of the life sciences (diagnostics, vaccines, drug discovery, plant breeding, etc)… the point is that there are a huge range of alternative organizational models that have remained unexplored. Tragically, the world's citizens have silently stood by while stagnant multi-nationals pursued a typical merger/acquisition power grab that has consolidated critical technologies in the hands of a few who are not motivated to use them except when they can extract maximum monopoly rents. Finally, regulatory reform would create transparency in clinical trials, preventing conflicts of interest and making sure the data was publicly available for all to see. Profits would not come at the expense of patients.

Now look at reality. I am many things, but naïve is not one of them. Without massive coordinated effort we shall surely fail to achieve a Free and Open Science and Technology Paradigm. The vision I sketch needs to come about within the next decade if humanity is to make any progress against our interrelated great challenges—Energy, Climate, Health, Food Security, and Poverty. By 2019 there must be a distributed, global network of institutions participating in the governance of Science and Technology. I hope you share my excitement for this unique instant in history when it is finally possible for mankind, a species distinguished and defined by its capacity to use tools, to unleash the unlimited problem solving powers of the tool of tools, science. - JJ.