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Open science versus commercialization: a modern research conflict?

Timothy Caulfield1*, Shawn HE Harmon2 and Yann Joly3

Author Affiliations

1 Health Law and Science Policy Group, Law Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton, T6G 2H5, Canada

2 School of Law, University of Edinburgh, Old College, South Bridge, Edinburgh, EH8 9YL, UK

3 Centre of Genomics and Policy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Human Genetics, McGill University, 740 Dr. Penfield Avenue Suite 5200, Montreal, H3A 1A4, Canada

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Genome Medicine 2012, 4:17  doi:10.1186/gm316

Published: 27 February 2012



Efforts to improve research outcomes have resulted in genomic researchers being confronted with complex and seemingly contradictory instructions about how to perform their tasks. Over the past decade, there has been increasing pressure on university researchers to commercialize their work. Concurrently, they are encouraged to collaborate, share data and disseminate new knowledge quickly (that is, to adopt an open science model) in order to foster scientific progress, meet humanitarian goals, and to maximize the impact of their research.


We present selected guidelines from three countries (Canada, United States, and United Kingdom) situated at the forefront of genomics to illustrate this potential policy conflict. Examining the innovation ecosystem and the messages conveyed by the different policies surveyed, we further investigate the inconsistencies between open science and commercialization policies.


Commercialization and open science are not necessarily irreconcilable and could instead be envisioned as complementary elements of a more holistic innovation framework. Given the exploratory nature of our study, we wish to point out the need to gather additional evidence on the coexistence of open science and commercialization policies and on its impact, both positive and negative, on genomics academic research.