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What should be public and what should be private in scientific research? The competitive sprint of public and private laboratories to complete the sequence of the human genome has brought this question to the fore. The same question frames the developing struggle over terms of access to human embryonic stem cell lines and the conflict between Microsoft and the open source movement over how best to promote software development. We expect such conflicts to become more widespread as the role of for-profit research expands in a broader range of scientific fields. Will science progress more swiftly and fruitfully if its findings are in the public domain, or if they may be captured as intellectual property? What kinds of research should be funded publicly and what kinds left for private financing? Is competition between public and private science stimulating and constructive, or is it wasteful and counterproductive? Our aim in this essay is to bring these issues into clearer view. They have been kept in the analytic shadows until recently by the presumption that science and technology are largely distinct enterprises. In fact, the problems arise in areas where science and technology overlap.


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