The science commons in life science research: Structure, function, and value of access to genetic diversity

Robert Cook-Deegan, Tom Dedeurwaerdere

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Innovation in the life sciences depends on how much information is produced as well as how widely and easily it is shared. Policies governing the science commons - or alternative, more restricted informational spaces - determine how widely and quickly information is distributed. The purpose of this paper is to highlight why the science commons matters and to analyse its structure and function. The main lesson from our analysis is that both the characteristics of the physical resources (from genes to microbes, plants and animals) and the norms and beliefs of the different research communities - think of the Bermuda rules in the human genome case or the Belem declaration for bioprospecting - matter in the institutional choices made when organising the science commons. We also show that the science commons contributes to solving some of the collective action dilemmas that arise in the production of knowledge in Pasteur's Quadrant, when information is both scientifically important and practically applicable. We show the importance of two of these dilemmas for the life sciences, which we call respectively the diffusion-innovation dilemma (how readily innovation diffuses) and the exploration-exploitation dilemma (when application requires collective action).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-317
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Social Science Journal
Issue number188
StatePublished - Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'The science commons in life science research: Structure, function, and value of access to genetic diversity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this