Why we need open-source science innovation — not patents and paywalls

The strong support these surveys found for open-source practices among North American professors is interesting. Although, now that open access publishing is basically required in the US and my impression has always been that most academics aren’t really that interested in patenting their research, maybe the results are not really that surprising.

The results of a survey study of university professors in Canada found 81.1 per cent of Canadian faculty would trade all IP for an open-source endowed chair and 34.4 per cent of these faculty would require no additional compensation. Surprisingly, even more American faculty (86.7 per cent) are willing to accept an open-source endowed professorship.

In both these studies, we presented participants with information about open-source endowed professorships to provide context and clarity for the subsequent multiple-choice and open-ended questions.

We looked at professors in every stage of their career (assistant to emeritus), tenured and non-tenured, at all types of universities (colleges to institutions with very high research activity), and in all disciplines including professional programs.

We analyzed results for three core disciplines of engineering/technology, natural sciences and social sciences to assess if there are differences in preferred compensation types among scholars of various disciplines.

The will to share was robust across all variables. Professors as a whole would be willing to make all of their IP freely available in exchange for the open-source endowed chair.

Note that the definition of open-source used in the studies is specific to open access publishing and public licensing of IP, and doesn’t cover the full breadth of open science practices.

To hold an open-source-endowed chair , in addition to demonstrated excellence in their field, professors would need to agree to (1) ensuring all of their writing is distributed via open access in some way and (2) releasing all of their intellectual property in the public domain or under appropriate open-source licenses.