Thursday, November 18, 2004


"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants" -- Isaac Newton in: Letter to Robert Hooke, February 5, 1675/1676*

Science has more or less successfully had an innovation commons for years. The development of the "scientific method" is credited to Roger Bacon. At times the commons has been limited to specific countries, or regions or alliances. And, at various times threats like trade imbalances, wars, the Cold War, military threats or terrorism have placed limitations upon who can participate and what types of sharing can occur. However, the trend seems to be to expand the science commons to the whole earth.

I've been thinking about this while working on the idea of an innovation commons. I have not researched this issue, I'm just drawing on past knowledge and experience, but there seems to be several principles that one can derive from science:
  • The very strong culture of referencing and footnoting contributions.
  • A strong culture against plagiarism
  • Mechanisms for contributions to exist for a very long time.
  • Mechanisms to index and file contributions
  • Libraries with low barriers to entry that provide access
  • Cultures and enablers that incent participation
  • Reputation systems
  • An inherent belief in the system not only by participants but by those who administer participants as well
  • Institutions that foster the creation of knowledge
  • Professional associations that facilitate the commons and help participants to develop
  • In some cases, government funding

* See for more information. This quote, which I've used before, is not nearly as impressive when you understand the context. But, out of context, it makes a good point.


Blogger Paul Schumann said...

Science CommonsScience Commons is an exploratory project to apply the philosophies and activities of Creative Commons in the realm of science.

The mission of Science Commons is to encourage scientific innovation by making it easier for scientists, universities, and industries to use literature, data, and other scientific intellectual property and to share their knowledge with others. Science Commons works within current copyright and patent law to promote legal and technical mechanisms that remove barriers to sharing. Science Commons will launch in January 2005.

Creative Commons offers a flexible range of protections and freedoms for authors and artists. We have built upon the "all rights reserved" of traditional copyright to create a voluntary "some rights reserved" copyright. We're a nonprofit. All of our tools are free.

View their blog at

12:21 PM  

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