Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Science as an Innovation Commons

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants" -- Isaac Newton in: Letter to Robert Hooke, February 5, 1675/1676*

Science has more or less successfully had an innovation commons for years. The development of the "scientific method" is credited to Roger Bacon. At times the commons has been limited to specific countries, or regions or alliances. And, at various times threats like trade imbalances, wars, the Cold War, military threats or terrorism have placed limitations upon who can participate and what types of sharing can occur. However, the trend seems to be to expand the science commons to the whole earth.

I've been thinking about this while working on the idea of an innovation commons. I have not researched this issue, I'm just drawing on past knowledge and experience, but there seems to be several principles that one can derive from science:

* The very strong culture of referencing and footnoting contributions.
* A strong culture against plagiarism
* Mechanisms for contributions to exist for a very long time.
* Mechanisms to index and file contributions
* Libraries with low barriers to entry that provide access
* Cultures and enablers that incent participation
* Reputation systems
* An inherent belief in the system not only by participants but by those who administer participants as well
* Institutions that foster the creation of knowledge
* Professional associations that facilitate the commons and help participants to develop
* In some cases, government funding

* See for more information. This quote, which I've used before, is not nearly as impressive when you understand the context. But, out of context, it makes a good point.

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