Re-engineering scientific credit in the era of the globalized information economy

Philip Mirowski


Interest has arisen recently in assessing the impact of recent alterations in intellectual property law upon the structure and conduct of scientific research. This paper starts from the perspective of the literature of science studies, and suggests that earlier simplistic appeals to economic analysis and the sanctity of authorial intentions are badly flawed in both theoretical and empirical dimensions. We propose an alternative based upon a taxonomy of the types of authors envisioned in various regimes of intellectual property. From this perspective, two recent and semi-independent trends - namely, profound revision of copyright and patent in the direction away from earlier constructions of the author and towards greater downstream control, and the push to re-engineer universities towards greater commercial orientation - are leading to a fundamental contradiction in the available role models for contemporary scientists. Bluntly, the more science is commercialized under the new regime, the more previous research practices and protocols are threatened. The paper closes with three classes of examples to illustrate this claim: legal moves to suppress criticism and debate; restrictions on database access; and, the transformation of scientific journals into infomercial outlets.

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