Who’s The Dinosaur In The Room?

This week I’m using PowToon and ScoopIt to present my thoughts, backed up with some old-fashioned text.


The Open Access ethos equates to making material publicly available, so that it can be freely read and used. As highlighted last semester by Lucy Hewson, in the case of academic papers this enables academia and industry to use and build on such publications. However, as there are reduced controls on these dissemination routes, it can result in poor peer review and hence there may be an accompanying reduction in the quality of published work. Further, in the case of science and engineering, the funding body – a country or a business – will want to see an economic return on their investment. Here, the cost of turning a University’s idea into a product is generally so high that the investment will only take place if the core idea has been kept secret or patented.

As Unesco note, the conflict between publication and secrecy is reflected in the system of Intellectual Property, which seeks to balance the needs of the author/inventor and the needs of society.

So, does the system of intellectual property rights match today’s need? Patents protect inventions for up to 20 years and can cost £100,000 pounds. In contrast, copyright which protects music, costs nothing and lasts 70 years after author dies. Unsurprisingly, many regard current system as flawed, including the European Commissioner for Telecom and Media, Viviane Reding.

Indeed, it could be argued that internet piracy is a natural response to unfair legislation that has led to the accumulation of massive wealth by pop-stars, footballers, and alike. But as Viviane Reding highlights, we not only need changes to intellectual property legislation, but also the business models used to generate money from people’s work.

  • Perhaps music should be made freely available online and revenue sought from radio plays, product endorsements, concerts and alike; Ed Sheeran seems to reflect this view, as shown in this Guardian article.
  • Similarly, as highlighted by Calum Burgess last semester, the online game League of Legends is free to use, but generates income by selling optional clothes and alike for the online characters to wear.

So, for me, science and engineering need secrecy and intellectual property rights; otherwise companies will not invest. But the creative sector, the arts, media and social sciences need to embrace Open Access and develop new mechanisms to benefit from their work – this may mean pop-stars have to accept a reduction in income, but I don’t see them giving up their careers because they are destined to be very-rich rather than mega-rich.


Australian Open Access Support Group, Benefits of Open Access,


Calum Burgess, Spotify, USOSM2033: Living and Working on the Web,


David Willetts, Open, free access to academic research?, The Guardian, 1st May 2012.


David Y. Choia and Arturo Perezb, Online piracy, innovation, and legitimate business models, Technovation 27, pp. 168–178,

John Paul Titlow, Why 3D Printing Will Be The Next Big Copyright Fight, Readwrite, 2013


Lucy Hewson, Open Access for all, USOSM2033: Living and Working on the Web.


Stuart Dredge, Ed Sheeran talks Spotify royalties: I’m in the music industry to play live, The Guardian, 30th September 2014


United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, The ABC of Copyright, 2010


Viviane Reding, Internet Piracy is a “Wake-up Call’ for Policy Makers, YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-rE1KuhZQc


7 thoughts on “Who’s The Dinosaur In The Room?

  1. Hi Tamara,

    I loved all of the visuals and media included in your blog post. The ScoopIt feature made reading this post more of an experience, as I felt like I had a real insight into your thoughts on the topic.

    I found it interesting that you believe academia should remain private. I had conflicting views, as highlighted in my blog, so I was wondering if you thought it was fair to deny ground-breaking ideas and discoveries to the general public? After all, important findings are the backbone of any discipline.

    However, I have to say I do agree with your opinions on the arts industry. Songs and films are made to entertain the public and express creativity through experimental methods, so why do artists feel the need to put a significant price on their work? Who knows. It’s never going to stop people from posting song covers on YouTube, for instance!


    1. Hi Tatiana,

      Yes, I agree that it does seem odd that I am suggesting some ideas – that can ultimately benefit mankind – should initially be kept secret.

      This is simply because of the high cost of converting clever ideas into sellable products. For example, the typical cost of developing a new prescription drug is $2,500,000,000 (yes that is the right number of zeros)! http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/cost-to-develop-new-pharmaceutical-drug-now-exceeds-2-5b/
      Many of the ideas for new drugs come out of Universities. If the University simply published the idea, then no-one would invest this sort of money in developing the concept, because they would be scared that someone else would get to the market first. If this happened they would not be able to get their $2.5b back, let alone make a profit. The only way that a company will invest in these technologies is if they have sole access to the idea and can be confident they will get to the market first.

      So in practice, with science and technology research, there is often a stark choice between a) publishing an idea – but no one using it or developing it, or b) only sharing it with a select few – and in so doing encouraging them to develop the idea.


  2. Hi Tatiana and Tamara,

    Firstly, I really appreciate the videos in the above blog post. It was also really nice to observe how you developed your videos and added your own commentary to them! I think they manage to convey the message in an entertaining way.

    I don’t mean to say that the readable part of your blog is not interesting – I think it nicely extended the information shown in video. Great job! However, I would also disagree with the article on the issue of privacy of science and technology research.

    Firstly, the high price of a new drug R&D may be inaccurate. The Doctors Without Borders claim the figure should actually be closer to 200$ million. Which is still a lot of money, but on top of that, nearly half of the R&D funding of the big companies comes from taxpayer’s money. In my opinion, everything funded by public money should be made accessible, in order to further inspire and increase scientific development.

    But more importantly, publicising a new discovery in Open Access (or even traditional journal, to be fair) does not mean the innovation cannot be patented. Such is an example of PageRank, the algorithm underlying the success of Google search engine. The patent belongs to Stanford University (with Google having the exclusive license), which enabled both this University and Google to prosper and make money ( http://www.wikiwand.com/en/PageRank#/History ).

    Furthermore, it is a prime example of the development of scientific knowledge, which builds up on research of others, until it develops a solution to an issue. Through knowledge and inspiration exchange science has prospered for years, but in order for this to work effectively, we need rapid and accessible exchange of ideas, research results and data. In my opinions, we shouldn’t impede this by privacy of research.

    Congratulations on your blog and the way you managed to ignite interesting discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Bartosz,

    You are of course right about patents – once something is patented then the investors are free to publish because the patent (rather than secrecy) guarantees their rights – and thus enables investors to see a return on their investment. However, don’t forget that the patent stops others from applying the idea – so even if the researchers do publish the work after patenting it, it can’t really be called Open Access, because it is not possible to exploit the idea (at least without paying royalties etc).

    Public funding – again I agree with the core of what you are saying. I definitely agree that the public should benefit when public funding has been used to fund research. However, whilst publishing the idea (without patenting it) may mean others can build on the work; for the reasons I originally mentioned, this may mean it is no longer commercially attractive for commercial organisations to invest in it. So sometimes, for the public to benefit from an idea, it has to be kept secret for as long as possible, regardless of whether the idea came from public funding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Tamara,

      Thanks for the reply, you excellently clarified your opinion. That is a fair distinction to make, between releasing research to Open Access and ability to exploit the idea. I would agree with that point.

      It is certainly true, that for a short period of time even publicly funded research may be kept secret. However, after finishing the project it should be either patented (used comercially) or released to Open Access (for others to learn). Which is the case anyway, I think 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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