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RE: Monopolies and copyright (RE: Wellcome Trust report)

> 'Keeping the minutes of science' is perhaps a bit of a 
> simplification, but not disingenuous, I think. Record keeping 
> is very important in the collaborative, incremental and 
> cumulative process that the scientific pursuit is. 

In my view, what makes the "minutes" analogy disinenguous is that it
misrepresents the nature and purpose of scientific writing in order to
make it seem more like something that shouldn't be thought of as
intellectual property ("Copyright?  Come on, lighten up -- we're just
taking minutes here.").  The question isn't whether record-keeping is
important; the question is whether there's a fundamental difference
between taking notes at a meeting and designing, performing and then
reporting on original research -- and whether that fundamental difference
ought to be reflected in the way we think about authors' rights in both

> Most science is explicitly, overtly, and necessarily built on 
> previous knowledge. 

Well... yes, the research itself is built on previous knowledge, of
course.  But most scientific writing (at least, most scientific writing
that gets published) is based on original research; it's not just a
reiteration of previous knowledge.

> Might it be a little disingenuous to  compare science with developing 
> cooking recipes?

No, because it's an analogy that actually fits.  Coming up with an
original culinary idea (a hypothesis, if you will), figuring out a way to
test it, testing it, fixing problems, trying the experiment again, and
then publishing the results is actually very much like science.  It
certainly has more in common with science than with minute-taking.

Rick Anderson
Dir. of Resource Acquisition
University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
(775) 784-6500 x273