Governance of a global genetic resource commons for non-commercial research: A case-study of the DNA barcode commons

Authors : Janis Geary, Tania Bubela

Life sciences research that uses genetic resources is increasingly collaborative and global, yet collective action remains a significant barrier to the creation and management of shared research resources. These resources include sequence data and associated metadata, and biological samples, and can be understood as a type of knowledge commons.

Collective action by stakeholders to create and use knowledge commons for research has potential benefits for all involved, including minimizing costs and sharing risks, but there are gaps in our understanding of how institutional arrangements may promote such collective action in the context of global genetic resources.

We address this research gap by examining the attributes of an exemplar global knowledge commons: The DNA barcode commons. DNA barcodes are short, standardized gene regions that can be used to inexpensively identify unknown specimens, and proponents have led international efforts to make DNA barcodes a standard species identification tool.

Our research examined if and how attributes of the DNA barcode commons, including governance of DNA barcode resources and management of infrastructure, facilitate global participation in DNA barcoding efforts. Our data sources included key informant interviews, organizational documents, scientific outputs of the DNA barcoding community, and DNA barcode record submissions.

Our research suggested that the goal of creating a globally inclusive DNA barcode commons is partially impeded by the assumption that scientific norms and expectations held by researchers in high income countries are universal. We found scientific norms are informed by a complex history of resource misappropriation and mistrust between stakeholders.

DNA barcode organizations can mitigate the challenges caused by its global membership through creating more inclusive governance structures, developing norms for the community are specific to the context of DNA barcoding, and through increasing awareness and knowledge of pertinent legal frameworks.

URL : Governance of a global genetic resource commons for non-commercial research: A case-study of the DNA barcode commons

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Historicizing the Knowledge Commons: Open Access, Technical Knowledge, and the Industrial Application of Science

Author: Shawn Martin

How does open access relate to scholarly communication? Though there are many modern definitions stressing the accessibility of knowledge to everyone, sharing scientific knowledge has a much longer history.

What might the concept of ‘open access’ have meant to scientists and knowledge practitioners over the past several hundred years? This paper poses some relevant questions and calls for better historicization of the idea of the knowledge commons at different periods of time, particularly the era of the ‘Republic of Letters’ and the ‘Modern System of Science.’

The concept of open access as it relates to academic publishing has been very nuanced, and hopefully, understanding the history of ‘open access’ in relation to scholarly communication can help us to have more informed debates about where open access needs to go in the future.

URL : Historicizing the Knowledge Commons: Open Access, Technical Knowledge, and the Industrial Application of Science


Commons-Based Peer Production in the Work of Yochai Benkler

Author : Vangelis Papadimitropoulos

Yochai Benkler defines commons-based peer production as a non-market sector of information, knowledge and cultural production, which is not treated as private property but as an ethic of open sharing and co-operation, and is largely enhanced by the Internet and free/open source software.

This paper makes the case that there is a tension between Benkler’s liberal commitments and his anarchistic vision of the commons. Benkler limits the scope of commons-based peer production to the immaterial production of the digital commons, while paradoxically envisaging the control of the world economy by the commons.

This paradox reflects a deeper lacuna in his work, revealing the absence of a concrete strategy as to how the immaterial production of the digital commons can connect to material production and control the world economy.

The paper concludes with an enquiry into some of the latest efforts in the literature to fill this gap.

URL : Commons-Based Peer Production in the Work of Yochai Benkler


Open Access Policy in the UK: From Neoliberalism to the Commons

Author : Stuart Andrew Lawson

This thesis makes a contribution to the knowledge of open access through a historically  and theoretically informed account of contemporary open access policy in the UK (2010–15).

It critiques existing policy by revealing the influence of neoliberal ideology on its creation, and proposes a commons-based approach as an alternative. The historical context in Chapters 2 and 3 shows that access to knowledge has undergone numerous changes over the centuries and the current push to increase access to research, and political  controversies around this idea, are part of a long tradition.

The exploration of the origins and meanings of ‘openness’ in Chapter 4 enriches the understanding of open access as a concept and makes possible a more nuanced critique of specific instantiations of open access in later chapters.

The theoretical heart of the thesis is Chapter 5, in which neoliberalism is analysed with a particular focus on neoliberal conceptions of liberty and openness. The subsequent examination of neoliberal higher education in Chapter 6 is therefore informed by a thorough grounding in the ideology that underlies policymaking in the neoliberal era.

This understanding then acts as invaluable context for the analysis of the UK’s open access policy in Chapter 7. By highlighting the neoliberal aspects of open access policy, the political tensions within open access advocacy are shown to have real effects on the way that open access is unfolding.

Finally, Chapter 8 proposes the commons as a useful theoretical model for conceptualising a future scholarly publishing ecosystem that is free from neoliberal ideology. An argument is made that a commons-based open access policy is possible, though must be carefully constructed with close attention paid to the power relations that exist between different scholarly communities.

URL : Open Access Policy in the UK: From Neoliberalism to the Commons

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L’ouverture des données publiques : un bien commun en devenir ?

Auteurs/Authors : Valérie Larroche, Marie-France Peyrelong, Philippe Beaune

Cet article interroge les données ouvertes en tant que bien commun. Le traitement préalable effectué sur les données à mettre à disposition permet de créer une ressource partagée et, à première vue, possède le potentiel pour être un bien commun. L’article relève plusieurs points d’achoppement qui nuancent cette affirmation.

Le premier argument provient des licences qui n’exigent pas du fournisseur de données en temps réel une continuité du service.

Le deuxième argument pointe le rôle du ré-utilisateur de la donnée qui ne participe pas à la gouvernance de la donnée.

Enfin, le dernier argument souligne le fait que les collectivités impliquées dans les communs urbains ne présentent pas l’open data comme tel.

Nos justifications sont le fruit d’analyses de portails de villes et d’entretiens menés auprès de ré-utilisateurs de données ouvertes.

URL : L’ouverture des données publiques : un bien commun en devenir ?

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Une introduction aux communs de la connaissance

Auteur/Author : Hervé Le Crosnier

Nous proposons une introduction aux communs de la connaissance qui s’appuie sur une tentative de définir les communs eux-mêmes, pour évaluer ensuite ce qui s’y rapporte dans les domaines intangibles du savoir et du numérique.

Il apparaît difficile d’avoir une définition canonique des communs. Malgré un corpus scientifique en augmentation rapide, il subsiste des approches différentes selon les pays, les régions, les cultures…

Mais cela est certainement un bienfait : les communs sont avant tout le résultat d’une expérience vécue. L’article présente différentes approches des communs, à la fois dans les débats théoriques et dans les pratiques des mouvements associés au partage de ressources.

Il documente le passage d’une théorie appliquée à des ressources localisées vers des pratiques coopératives élargies grâce au numérique.

URL : Une introduction aux communs de la connaissance

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Commons Praxis: Toward a Critical Political Economy of the Digital Commons

Author : Benjamin J Birkinbine

The concept of the commons has provided a useful framework for understanding a wide range of resources and cultural activities associated with the creation of value outside of the traditional market mechanisms under capitalism (i.e., private property, rational self-interest, and profit maximization).

However, these communities often continue to intersect with capital and the state attempts to appropriate their resources. Recent scholarship has sought to unpack some of the contradictions inherent in the claims made about the revolutionary potential of the commons by offering conceptual frameworks for assessing commons-based projects.

This paper builds upon this research by developing a two-pronged argument. First, by drawing examples from the free software movement, I argue that critical political economy provides the most useful analytical framework for understanding the contradictions inherent in the relationship between capital and the commons. Second, I argue for a commons praxis that attempts to overcome some of these contradictions.

Within this discussion, I build on the notion of ‘boundary commoning’ to understand organisational form, and I develop the concept of ‘subversive commoning’ for understanding various forms of commoning that seek to undermine the capitalist logics of the digital commons.

URL : Commons Praxis: Toward a Critical Political Economy of the Digital Commons

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