Why Do Economists Have Such a Hard Time Imagining Open Source Biomedical Research?

April 04, 2020

It seems more than a bit bizarre, but in a discussion of an 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 is 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.



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