Copyright, data and research

I have written on copyright before. It is one of those things that are important but very hard to raise much enthusiasm about. Praise is due therefore to the British Library for their latest effort.
They have just released a report on copyright and research – highlilghting its importance for researchers. It asks whether current copyright law is a help or a hindrance to UK research, and has one-page contributions from a range of people – researchers of various disciplines, intellectual property experts and journalists. They look at how the framework for intellectual property needs reviewing for the digital age. It is interesting to have such a broad range of opinion from academia.
Cameron Neylon is one of the contributors along with Jeremy Frey (Physical Chemistry, Univ Southampton), Dave Roberts and Vince Smith (both taxonomists at the Natural History Museum) all writing from a science perspective. Issues they highlight are the use of graphs and figures and access to the underlying data, text and data mining, and scientific publishing.
The report says it aims to

present the ‘grassroots view’ of the UK’s copyright framework and ideas on how it could be updated to work in this new and changing environment. There is a consensus that the laws on copyright and their interpretation must be redefined in the context of a modernising world and developing research techniques

It is just 20 pages long and worth a read or skim – just look at the three pages from a science perspective if you’re short of time.
Driving UK Research. Is copyright a help or a hindrance?)
Meanwhile, an article in Science by an intellectual property expert looks at current and changing practice around the release of scientific data.

Researchers must disclose their data in order to achieve recognition and to enable others to test, validate, and challenge their hypotheses. he traditional practice has been to contribute experimental and observational data to the commons when, or shortly after, the analysis of that data is published…Many traditional data-sharing practices were challenged, with significant and lasting effect, during the race to sequence the human genome.

He concludes that

The key to developing successful information commons is striking the appropriate balance among competing objectives. Commons weighted too heavily in favor of data users are not likely to attract sufficient contributions from data generators, whereas commons weighted too heavily in favor of data generators may not optimally advance the interests of science or the public.

About Frank Norman

I am a librarian in a biomedical research institute. I've been around a few years, long enough to know that exciting new things fall into the same familiar patterns. I'm interested in navigating a path for libraries as we move further from print to electronic resources to open research, and become more embedded in research workflows.
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