Home > Uncategorized > Why do economists have such a hard time imagining open source biomedical research?

Why do economists have such a hard time imagining open source biomedical research?

from Dean Baker

It seems more than a bit bizarre, but in a discussion of alternative to patents for financing the development of new drugs and vaccines, publicly funded open-source research is not mentioned.  This is peculiar since so much of the research into treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus are in effect being open-sourced, with researchers posting results as soon as they are available. Advance, open-sourced funding would mean that any new drugs or vaccines that are developed could be sold as cheap generics from the first day they are available.

It is also bizarre that economists have such a hard time envisioning open source research, since all of our research is essentially open source. Economists are paid by universities and think tanks. Extraordinary work can qualify for a Nobel Prize, which is a big chunk of money, but the vast majority of economists get the bulk of their income from ongoing funding streams, where they are expected to produce research that will be widely available.

Perhaps economists believe that this route has not been effective in supporting good research in economics. This could explain their reluctance to envision open source research in biomedical innovation and elsewhere.

  1. April 9, 2020 at 4:28 pm

    Interesting point. The wry humor reminds me of astrophysicists who photographed a cannon super nova and reported knowing everything about it but how and why. Great humor from both sources.


  2. Charlie Thomas
    April 10, 2020 at 4:08 am

    as is often the case Baker is right on the mark. The not for profit University systems were and still are where they have been left to their better natures extremely beneficial to the society as a whole. The profit motive has perverted many schools over the last 4 or 5 decades now hasn’t it? ( old guy; BS Chem. Stanford ’62 PhD Forest Biometrics U British Columbia 1980.)

  3. Ken Zimmerman
    April 23, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    Like Garrett and Charlie the educational arrangements that were common when I attended college and graduate school were free or near-free “public” universities. Without these and veterans benefits from the federal government many veterans in the 1950s-1980s could never have completed college, much less graduate or professional schools. The benefits to society were wide-spread and significant. It’s my view it was these benefits that eventually doomed these educational arrangements. After all, an educated and actively involved population can make democracy work, stop movements toward authoritarianism, and expand opportunity (economic and otherwise) for all Americans. This translates to higher taxes for the rich, for corporations, control of private money in elections, and full monitoring for elections for interference. Some don’t like these developments.

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