IP overhaul to benefit scientists

C&I Issue 16, 2011

Recommendations in the recent UK government- backed Hargreaves’ review of intellectual property will have far-reaching implications for researchers, leading scientific agencies have now acknowledged. Release of the report in May 2011 grabbed headlines with a proposal to legalise the copying of music from one player format to another, however another outcome could include the introduction of an exception to copyright for search and analysis techniques known as ‘text and data mining’, which would allow scientists greater access to data, according to the Wellcome Trust and MRC.

Allowing the use of ‘text and data mining tools on the wealth of information contained in published works will accelerate discovery and its application for societal benefit,’ said Wellcome Trust director Sir Mark Walport in a statement earlier this month. This view was earlier endorsed by the Medical Research Council, which drew attention to the impact it would have on the development of UK PubMed Central (UKPMC), a free online literature resource for life sciences researchers. ‘When these reforms come into force, researchers will be able to search the text of over 2m accessing publications and related information free of charge,‘ said Geraldine Clement-Stoneham, knowledge and information manager, referring to the MRC’s investment in text-mining technology for UKPMC.

Overhaul of the UK’s IP system could add up to £7.9bn to the UK economy, according to the Hargreaves’ report, Digital opportunity. If implemented, the recommendations could add up to an estimated 0.6% to annual GDP and cut the costs of doing IP related business by £750m within a decade. They are ‘designed to... ensure the emergence of high technology businesses, especially smaller businesses, in other sectors is not impeded by our IP laws,’ said report chair Ian Hargreaves, also chair of digital economy at Cardiff Business School.

Other recommendations in the review include the creation of an online shop or Digital Copyright Exchange, where copyright licences can be traded; and to prioritise the long-awaited development of a unified EU patent system.

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