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E14: Open Science vs. Free Market

Can free data and for-profit research coexist? We discuss the possibilities with Charles River neuroscientist Antti Nurmi

For this month’s episode of Sounds of Science, I am joined by Antti Nurmi, Managing Director for Charles River Discovery Services in Kuopio, Finland. Nurmi and I share an interest in open science, or the free exchange of scientific data. Economic realities make this ideal almost impossible, but in this episode we discuss open science strategies that could still be feasible in a profitable marketplace like biomedical research.

For example, we touch on the open exchange of patient data for research into orphan diseases. When there are so few patients to work with, data like this can be the difference between a profitable new drug and a missed opportunity. However, issues like patient privacy and intellectual property mean that open exchange must be responsibly regulated.

Finally, we discuss failure. In a results-driven field like medicine, and in the halls of academia where researchers must “publish or perish,” negative results are often buried. If a hypothesis does not pan out, the instinct for some researchers is to never mention it to anyone. This leads to repeated work and inefficiencies if other researchers are thinking along the same lines. With more open science, “failures” could lose their stigma and lead instead to success.

“If you think about science in general, some of the greatest inventions people have actually learned by accident,” says Nurmi in this episode. “It’s not just a path that, when you work diligently, and you work very rigorously toward something, all of a sudden you come across some sort of invention. It’s sometimes just pure accident or coincidence that you come up with these great pieces of knowledge.”

Listen here to this episode of Sounds of Science and let us know what you think about the balance between pure research and sustainable profit.

If you are interested in learning more about the history lesson at the beginning of this podcast, click here for a story about Francis Bacon, the Father of the Scientific Revolution.

Thanks for listening. Our August podcast will explore the world of horseshoe crab fossils. Please stay tuned. 

Sounds of Science is a monthly podcast by Eureka, with new episodes on the first Tuesday of the month. You can subscribe and download our episodes wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. For even more scientific content follow Charles River on Facebook and LinkedIn and @criverlabs on Instagram and Twitter. You can also send us your questions, our email address is soundsofscience@criver.com.

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