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Paul Allen

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen makes the case for broader sharing of scientific data — an “open science” model — in a newly published opinion piece (subscription required) in the Wall Street Journal, drawing from the experiences of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle.

Allen explains that the institute initially considered charging for access to its online database, before deciding to make the research freely available, with no registration required and a terms-of-use agreement “about 10% as long as the one governing iTunes,” as Allen puts it.

The piece is also interesting from a historical perspective, given Microsoft’s intense focus on protecting its intellectual property, and its longtime aversion to open-source software, even though that stance has since softened in many respects.

Allen writes of the Brain Institute, “Most important, we generate data for the purpose of sharing it. Since opening shop in 2003, we’ve had 23 public releases, or about three per year. We don’t wait to analyze our raw data and publish in the literature. We pour it onto the public website as soon as it passes our quality control checks. Our goal is to speed others’ discoveries as much as to springboard our own future research.”

He concludes with a call for foundations and funders of scientific research to help promote open science by asking about the researchers’ policies and practices on sharing data before writing a check.

Update: Try searching for “Paul Allen Open Science” in Google News for a free pass to read the full piece behind the Wall Street Journal firewall.

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