[sf-lug] harold varmus, barack obama's science advisor

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sun Nov 9 15:48:08 PST 2008

Quoting jim (jim at well.com):

>    a guy i worked with at the US court of appeals 
> claimed that all code written by governmental 
> employees is automatically in the public domain. 

United States Code Title 17 section 105 ("17 U.S.C. 105") says:

  Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of
  the United States Government, but the United States Government is not
  precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by
  assignment, bequest, or otherwise.


But that really has nothing particularly to do with open source.

> (from the bottom of the page of
> http://www.lutherblissett.net/archive/491_en.html 
> "...NIH director Dr. Harold E. Varmus proposed to put all scientific
> research on what is effectively an open source footing. Under Varmus's
> plan, which is still being debated, researchers would skip mediation
> by scientific journals and upload their results directly to the
> Internet, to be freely examined by anyone. This system would strongly
> promote the collaborative side of science, upsetting researchers wed
> to the proprietary approach. According to The New York Times, however,
> many concede an open source revolution in research is 'just a question
> of when and how.'

The last few years, there's been a rebellion on the part of some
scientist against the hyper-control policies of traditional academic
journals, which typically require signing over full rights to published
material and forbid republication of any part of the work elsewhere.
(This nearly ubiquitous practice is particularly problematic when you
consider how much of the research in question was funded with public
monies.)  Accordingly, those scientists have been doing the obvious by 
founding a number of peer-reviewed "open access" science journals in
various fields.

See:  http://www.doaj.org/doaj?func=loadTempl&templ=about

Notice that the rights considered to suffice for "open access" science
publications are paltry compared to those in open source / free software:  
Readers do _not_ gain the right to "fork" the work -- to create and
distribute derivatives of that work -- nor to use it for any purpose.
So, please do not confuse this movement with open source.

It is, however, an important issue (for scientists and for those us who
pay tax money to support them), and is making (some) scientific
publishing much more broadly available.

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