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The Impact of Open Access Institutions on Life Sciences Research: Lessons from BRCs and Beyond

The Impact of Open Access Institutions on Life Sciences Research: Lessons from BRCs and Beyond. Scott Stern, MIT, Northwestern & NBER Designing the Microbial Research Commons: An International Symposium October 2009. 1. Do Open Access Institutions Matter? YES!.

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The Impact of Open Access Institutions on Life Sciences Research: Lessons from BRCs and Beyond

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  1. The Impact of Open Access Institutions on Life Sciences Research: Lessons from BRCs and Beyond Scott Stern, MIT, Northwestern & NBER Designing the Microbial Research Commons: An International Symposium October 2009 1

  2. Do Open Access Institutions Matter? YES! • In conjunction with co-authors in economics and related areas, we have undertaken a systematic research program aimed at establishing the causal linkage between open-access institutions and policies and scientific progress • A “Natural Experiments” approach to evaluate the scientific commons • Studies cover diverse settings, including biological resource centers, mouse genetics (JAX), the Human Genome Project, and others • An accumulating body of striking evidence for the impact of open-access institutions and policies enhancing the rate and expanding the scope of follow-on scientific research • Implies a considerable benefit to the development of formal institutions and policies ensuring independent and low-cost access to certified biological materials to the scientific community, including both public and private researchers

  3. How do scientists “stand on the shoulders of giants”? • Long-term economic growth depends on the ability to draw upon an ever-wider body of scientific & technical knowledge (Rosenberg, Mokyr, Romer, Aghion & Howitt, David & Dasgupta) • Economic historians, institutional economists, and sociologists emphasize the role of “institutions” • however, the micro-foundations of knowledge accumulation are, by and large, still a “black box” • many challenges to assessing impact of institutions • knowledge flows are difficult to track • institutions are difficult to identify & characterize • knowledge is assigned endogenously (not randomly) to institutional environments

  4. Overall Research Agenda • The Micro-Economics of the Scientific Commons • How do open access institutions and policies that support a “scientific commons” contribute to the accumulation of knowledge and scientific research productivity? • Under what conditions do researchers (and their funders) have appropriate incentives to contribute to an open-access scientific commons, and what role do institutions and policy play in that process? • A Natural Experiments Approach • Exploit (exogenous) changes in institutions governing knowledge generation and diffusion • Helps address the “identification problem” • Allows us to evaluate the role of institutions on the overall use and nature of follow-on research

  5. The Economics of “Standing on Shoulders” • Standing on Shoulders is a key requirement for sustained research productivity, and scientific and technical progress • If the knowledge stock does not expand or cannot be accessed, diminishing returns will eventually arise • The production of knowledge does not guarantee its accessibility • Knowledge transfer is usually costly (e.g., tacitness, stickiness) • Strategic secrecy further limits the available knowledge pool • Even if available in principle, relevant calculation is the cost of drawing from the knowledge stock versus “reinventing the wheel” • Individual incentives to contribute to institutions supporting cumulative knowledge production are limited • Direct control rights over a material can allow researchers (or IP rights holders) to hold-up future scientific progress, particularly when downstream applications arise

  6. Getting the Incentives Right • Establishing a knowledge hub (a scientific commons) within a technical community involves a collection action problem • Private incentives are too low • Role for public funding / cooperation among competitors • Even if funded, the incentives to participate as a depositor may be too low without explicit rules or norms • As long as knowledge producers care about the impact of their knowledge (for intrinsic, career, or strategic reasons), positive deposit incentives • However, potential depositors trade off overall impact of knowledge with potential for rent extraction through continued control over materials or data • The incentives for hold-up may be particularly salient for the most speculative research projects where it may be difficult for researchers to navigate the “patent thicket” arising from the interdependent IP claims over biological materials

  7. The Impact of Biological Resource Centers (with J. Furman)

  8. Biomaterials collections (BRCs)as Economic Institutions • Economic institutions such as BRCs have the power to amplify the impact of scientific discoveries by enabling future generations to build on past discoveries • within the life sciences, “standing on shoulders” often requires access to specific biological materials or materials collections • the precision of a given experimental design depends upon the understanding of the biological materials it employs • BRCs appear to possess 4 principal attributes that provide advantages in supporting knowledge accumulation relative to alternative arrangements • authentication / certification • long-term preservation • independentaccess • economies of scale and scope

  9. BRCs as Economic Institutions Authentication • The fidelity of discovered knowledge cannot be guaranteed by the initial discoverer but must be able to be replicated • Misidentification induces costly scientific errors • HeLa Scandals • contamination common at elite labs, as well as others • BRCs at the forefront of ensuring biomaterials fidelity • nonetheless concerns persist (Masters, 2002;PNAS, 2002) Long-Term Preservation • The importance of a given piece of knowledge (and the physical materials required to exploit that knowledge) are often only recognized long after the time of initial discovery • e.g., Brock’s Unlikely Bacteria • 1967: Thomas Brock discovers ThermusAquaticusin Yellowstone National Park geysers • 1983: K-Mullis conceives of PCR chain reaction, which requires extremophilie (Taq polymerase) • PCR becomes foundational tool for replication of DNA replication for modern molecular biology & biotechnology

  10. BRCs as Economic Institutions Independent Access • Substantial gap between private and social benefits of providing independent access to data and materials • potential for rent extraction • potential to minimize discovery of errors • BRCs support broad accessibility (subject to scientific background) in ways that the peer-to-peer network does not • IP Issues? • select materials? • democracy of science? Scale/Scope Economies • Centralized institutions’ investments in infrastructure, technology, & human capital may be cost-efficient relative to alternatives • substantial fixed cost component • learning-by-doing / specialization • minimizing replication of functions and collections across laboratories • establishment of a reputation as a “fair broker” • Orphan Collections • even well-maintained collections are often “abandoned”

  11. BRCs as Economic Institutions • From an economic perspective, the establishment of BRCs is subject to an important public goods problem, and effective biomaterials policy requires appropriate incentives and policies to ensure independent and low-cost access to follow-on researchers • BRCs appear to possess characteristics that supportthe acceleration of knowledge generation and diffusion relative to alternative institutions • But, do BRCs actually enhance the diffusion of scientific knowledge? How?

  12. An Inference Challenge Can we separate out the intrinsic importance of a biomaterial from the causal impact of the institutional environment and policies governing biomaterials access and use?

  13. Empirical Approach: A “Natural Experiments” Approach to Scientific Knowledge Diffusion • BRC Deposits are linked with specific scientific research articles or patents (referred to as “BRC-linked” articles) • Each BRC-linked article can be matched w/ article controls • Some BRC deposits occur long after initial publication • even many years after discovery, control over “refrigerators” can be transferred from specific research labs to BRCs • Some post-publication deposits are arguably exogenous • e.g., special collections “shifted” due to funding expiration at initial host institutions, faculty retirement, or faculty job change resulting in change in location of “refrigerator” • Allows us to observe variation in the impact of a single “piece” of knowledge across two distinct institutional environments

  14. The Experimental Strategy: “Special Collections” • “Special Collections” serve as a source of institutional variation to provide potentially exogenous “deposits” --- shifts of materials control from individual research laboratories into a certified, open-access environment • Special collections include the Tumor Immunology Bank (TIB, originally maintained at Salk Institute), the Human Tumor Bank (HTB, originally maintained at Sloan-Kettering) and the Gadzar Collection (originally maintained at NCI) • Because the timing of the “transfer” to a BRC is random, and we observe citations both before and after the transfer, possible to infer how the shift in the institutional environment changes the use of a biomaterial by follow-on researchers • In other words, by examining how follow-on researchers build on a discovery associated with a special collection material, we can examine variation in the impact of a single “piece” of knowledge across two distinct institutional environments

  15. FCjt FCjt FCjt FCjt FCjt FCjt Empirical Framework:Diffs-in-diffs analysis of citations received Pre-period institutional setting Post-period institutional setting FCjt Exogenous SHIFT Measure citations before & after to estimate impact of treatment on treated “diffs-in-diffs” approach Plot forward citations over time as a measure of scientific knowledge accumulation building on a “piece of knowledge” Publication FCjt FCjt FCjt Publication Treated FCjt Publication Publication Control

  16. How does the rate of citation of a scientific article change after the materials association with that article have been deposited in a culture collection?

  17. Data • The Treatment article sample was drawn from Historical ATCC Catalogues (along with consultation with ATCC staff), and the control article sample is drawn from Medline/PUBMED, where we identify “related articles” (by topic, in the same journal and same publication year) • Detailed bibliometric data, including publication year • 289 Article “Pairs” Between 1971 and 2001 • Citation Data are drawn from ISI Scientific Citation Index • For each treatment and control article, construct a measure of “citations received” for each year after initial publication • Collect detailed data on characteristics of the original articles and the citing articles • University affiliations, journal quality, bibliometric data (pages, etc), BRC access price

  18. Compared to carefully-matched control samples, ATCC-linked publications receive many more citations & are subject to less obsolescence

  19. Diffs-in-Diffs: Substantial Selection & Marginal Effects (Baseline Specification) 112% More Than Controls 71% Boost After Deposit * Cond FE Neg. Bin. Models, coefficients as IRRs; bootstrapped SEs

  20. Diffs-in-Diffs: Marginal Effects only 122% Boost After Deposit * Cond FE Neg. Bin. Models, coefficients as IRRs; bootstrapped SEs

  21. Impact of Deposit Grows Over Time and Does Not Exist Prior to Deposit • This suggests that deposit is, indeed, exogenous and that diffs-in-diffs approach usefully identifies marginal (post-deposit) effects • Conditional FE NB model

  22. How do BRCs enhance research impact? • Consistent with the certification role of BRCs, the citation boost from BRC deposit is higher for articles that are initially published in a non-top-tier journal, with lead authors at less highly ranked universities, and for articles with more complex subject matter • Consistent with the role of BRCs in offering independent access and scale economies, BRC boost is associated with an expansion in the number of distinct institutions citing an article, the number of journals an article is cited in, and the geographic reach of citations. • Not simply a matter of a “mechanical” change in citation patterns, the boost associated with BRC deposit seems to enhance the citation of related articles by the same authors • Results robust to a variety of controls and alternative specs

  23. Rate-of-return analysis • Should the marginal $ go to another experiment or ensuring that funded experiments are accessible to the next generation? • Biological Research Social Planner’s Objective: In each period, maximize the growth in the stock of knowledge available for future periods • Compare how BRC accession expenditures compare to traditional research expenditures in creating a pool of knowledge for future researchers • Counterfactual: Compare the “cost per citation” (i.e., the productivity of the citation production function) • Combining estimates from a variety of sources, the results suggest a 2.5x – 11x higher rate of return to investments in authentication and access, relative to simply funding another experiment

  24. BRC Cost-Effectiveness Calculation ÷ = ÷ = ÷ =

  25. Of Mice and Academics: The Impact of Openness on Innovation (with Aghion, Dewatripont, Kolev and Murray) A tale of three (blind, obese, diabetic, epileptic…) mice engineering technologies…. …setting to explore impact of changes (negotiated by NIH) that allowed for both greater formal access (via JAX) and lower IP restrictions Onco transgenic mouse technology Knock-out mouse technology Cre-lox mouse technology

  26. The Experiment: Treatment and Control Groups

  27. FCit FCit FCit FCit FCit FCit EMPIRICAL APPROACHEstimating Annual Forward Citations to each Mouse-Article Pre-Shock institutional setting Posts-Shock institutional setting FCit Cre-lox & Onco OPENNESS SHOCKS Articlei FCit Cre-lox Mouse FCit Articlei FCit Onco Mouse FCit Articlei • New/Old Last Author • New/Old Institution… • New/Old Key Words… • New/Old Journal…. • Basic/Applied Knock Out Mouse Articlei Spontaneous Mouse

  28. Analysis:Effectiveness of Formal Institutions for Changing Access to Research Mice • The impact of institutional change concentrated in citations by “new” last authors and in papers using new key words • Robust to “New Institution” v.“Old Institution”, Reprint Authors, Journals etc. 26% Boost After NIH Agreement formalizes Access & lowers IP Murray, Aghion et al., 2009 Murray, Aghion et al., 2009

  29. In other words, an increase in openess (and reduced opportunities for hold-up) in mouse genetics resulted in a significant increase in the diversity of new research lines and experimentation exploiting these novel research tools

  30. Intellectual Property Rights and Innovation: Evidence from the Human Genome (Heidi Williams, Harvard U) • During the final years of the HGP, competition between HGP and Celera, with temporary licensing rights for Celera sequences occuring prior to HGP coverage • Only lasted 2 years at most • Williams examines whether follow-on research on individual genes in the post-HGP era were impacted by Celera IPR claims • Preliminary results suggest an ~30% reduction in subsequent publications, phenotype-genotype linkages, and diagnostic tests for genes first sequenced by Celera

  31. Implications for the Microbial Commons • An accumulating body of evidence that the level and diversity of follow-on research from a new tool or discovery is enhanced by openness, certification, and independent access (academic freedom) • For publicly funded research, establishing access rules and institutions enhances the transparency and value of the grant process, provides incentives for upfront access investments, and may decrease total research costs on a “lifecycle” basis • For privately funded research, harder to ensure that the initial funder will eventually reap the reward for enhanced access (there is a real gap between private versus social incentives). However, policies encouraging disclosure and facilitating diffusion (as opposed to secrecy) strengthen the life sciences innovation system. Private funding depends on balancing opportunities for returns with the benefits arising from follow-on research • Not simply a technical issue of documentation and digitization, enhancing the cumulativeness of life sciences research depends on effective institutions encouraging the low-cost transfer of certified materials and data across research generations and across organizational and national borders

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