25 October 2006

Harnad on Open Access and Open Source

The high priest of open access, Steve Harnard, has some thoughts on how open access and open source relate to each other - and how they don't. He also uses this analogy:

I am personally in favour of open-code pharmacology ("OP"): The formula for potential cures should not be kept secret, or prevented from being used to sell or even give away the medicine.

It does *not* follow from this, however, that if a commercial pharmaceutical company develops a non-OP cure for AIDS today that I will refuse to use it or promote it! Nor will I try to suppress or refuse to cooperate with OP research or OP researchers, while there are still diseases and patients, needing to be cured now.

The reason this is different from the situation with open source is that for the latter you (as in an idealised "you") always have the option of sitting down and writing some free code. You do not really have this possibility when it comes to inventing drugs.

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