Public or private economies of knowledge: the economics of diffusion and appropriation of bioinformatics tools

Harvey, Mark; McMeekin, Andrew
January 2010
International Journal of the Commons;2010, Vol. 4 Issue 1, p481
Academic Journal
The past three decades have witnessed a period of great turbulence in the economies of biological knowledge, during which there has been great uncertainty as to how and where boundaries could be drawn between public or private knowledge especially with regard to the explosive growth in biological databases and their related bioinformatic tools. This paper will focus on some of the key software tools developed in relation to bio-databases. It will argue that bioinformatic tools are particularly economically unstable, and that there is a continuing tension and competition between their public and private modes of production, appropriation, distribution, and use. The paper adopts an 'instituted economic process' approach, and in this paper will elaborate on processes of making knowledge public in the creation of 'public goods'. The question is one of continuously creating and sustaining new institutions of the commons. We believe this is critical to an understanding of the division and interdependency between public and private economies of knowledge.


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