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By: Janis Geary, PhD
Understanding the diverse institutions that govern shared knowledge resources has benefited from a solid foundation of scholarship on natural resource commons. Attention has turned in recent years to how some of the same ideas apply to “knowledge commons,” and scholarship has expanded greatly since the early 2000s.1,2 Recent work to develop analytical frameworks specific to knowledge commons has made advances in how we study them.3,4 Empirical research—including the kinds of case studies that Elinor Ostrom spent her career doing and analyzing—that focus on specific gaps in scholarship will help target future research initiatives as well as point to specific policy interventions for more effective governance of genomic data resources.
Using multiple data sources, we will examine the patterns of resource use/provision in the hereditary cancer genomic variant commons over time to increase our understanding of how outcomes in a knowledge commons influence institutional arrangements and collective action.
Knowledge commons scholarship has been built on the Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom’s body of research on institutional arrangements used to govern natural resource commons. Ostrom developed the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework5, which has been tested in settings as diverse as community policing,6 fisheries,7 forestry8 and pastoral land.9 Her work led to expanding the definitions used to define resources from a dichotomy of private-vs.-public to a quadrant system adding club goods and common-pool resources, and establishing design principles for effective common-pool resource governance.10 In 2006, Ostrom and colleagues began to apply the lessons from natural resource commons governance to study knowledge commons.2,11–13 Frischmann and colleagues adapted the IAD framework to account for the differences between natural resource and knowledge commons,3,14 developing the Governing Knowledge Commons (GKC) Framework (Fig 1). There is still much room to grow both theory and practice.
Many scholars, and indeed practitioners and policy makers, focus on the type of institutional arrangement (e.g., open access) as a target outcome rather than a specific pattern of provision and use of the resource itself.15–18 In practise, this is likely, in part, a remnant of the highly successful Human Genome Project,19 built on a solid foundation of scientific norms for rapid and open data sharing and the assumption that this approach is ideal for all genomic studies Within commons scholarship, the lack of attention to outcomes arguably stems from the empirical neglect of evaluative criteria, as few studies attempt to examine what evaluative criteria are and whether they are being met with governance approaches20 (See example in Box 221,22). Cole 20 has suggested that the universal goals of natural resource commons (ensuring sustainable provision of the resource) resulted in little scholarly attention to evaluation criteria which transferred over to knowledge commons scholarship. Scholars have noted the importance of defining the goals and desired outcomes of knowledge commons,3 so empirical work should naturally follow to apply evaluative criteria to the patterns of interactions.
Analysis and Approach
Our research will use multiple methods in a case-study approach guided by the GKC framework.3,14 Our data sources will include: expert interviews, literature, data/metadata in CGVC databases, and clinical laboratory financial and annual reporting. We will conduct interviews and literature searches that will focus on describing the case study (blue areas, Fig 1 above). We will generate a list of companies and other data generators, data repositories, and data users. We will collect corporate statements and other published literature on clinical laboratories. As many genomic variant databases include non-cancer genes, we will use a list of cancer genes to extract data on the CGVC commons from available databases. We will use descriptive statistics to describe the pattern of data provision over time. Guided by the GKC framework, we will describe CGVC governance, and identify characteristics of the commons that impact governance challenges. We will examine the relationship between company characteristics (e.g. annual financial and corporate reports) and data-sharing. We will use our analysis to guide a second round of interviews with key experts, focusing on the description of resource provision, governance approaches, and salient resource characteristics. We will ask about impediments to optimal function of the knowledge commons, which are most important and which are most feasible to address, as well as ideas about how best to address the obstacles.
1. Hess C, Ostrom E. Ideas, Artifacts, and Facilities: Information as a Common-Pool Resource. Law Contemp Probl. 2003 Jan 1;66(1/2):111–45.
2. Hess C, Ostrom E. A framework for analysing the microbiological commons. Int Soc Sci J. 2006;58(188):335–349.
3. Frischmann BM, Madison MJ, Strandburg KJ. Governing Knowledge Commons. In: Frischmann BM, Madison MJ, Strandburg KJ, editors. Governing Knowledge Commons. New York: Oxford University Press; 2014. p. 1–43.
4. Evans B. Genomic Data Commons. In: Strandburg KJ, Frischmann BM, Madison MJ, editors. Governing Medical Knowledge Commons. Cambridge, United Kingdom ; New York, NY: Cambridge University Press; 2017. p. 74–101.
5. Ostrom E. An institutional approach to the study of self-organization and self-governance in CPR situations. In: Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. 1st ed. Cambridge University Press; 1990. p. 29–57.
6. Kahan DM. Reciprocity, Collective Action, and Community Policing. Calif Law Rev. 2002 Oct 1;90(5):1513–39.
7. Imperial MT, Yandle T. Taking Institutions Seriously: Using the IAD Framework to Analyze Fisheries Policy. Soc Nat Resour. 2005;18(6):493–509.
8. Andersson K. Understanding decentralized forest governance: an application of the institutional analysis and development framework. Sustain Sci Pract Policy. 2006;2(1):25–35.
9. Behnke R. Natural Resource Management in Pastoral Africa. Dev Policy Rev. 1994;12(1):5–28.
10. Ostrom E. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. 1st ed. Cambridge University Press; 1990. 298 p.
11. Hess C, Ostrom E. A framework for analyzing the knowledge commons. In: Hess C, Ostrom E, editors. Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice. MIT Press; 2011. p. 41–82.
12. Hess C, Ostrom E. Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice. MIT Press; 2011. 381 p.
13. Hess C. The unfolding of the knowledge commons. St Antonys Int Rev. 2012;8(1):13–24.
14. Strandburg KJ, Frischmann BM, Madison MJ, editors. Governing Medical Knowledge Commons. Cambridge, United Kingdom ; New York, NY: Cambridge University Press; 2017. 436 p.
15. Bell JW. Our Genome in Common: Genomic Data Release Policies and the Academic Librarian. Portal Libr Acad. 2003;3(2):293–306.
16. Caulfield T, Harmon SH, Joly Y. Open science versus commercialization: a modern research conflict? G enome Med. 2012 Feb 27;4(2):17.
17. Cornel MC, Bonham VL. Genomics for all in the 21st century? J Community Genet. 2017 Oct 1;8(4):249–51.
18. Hetu M, Koutouki K, Joly Y. Genomics for All: International Open Science Genomics Projects and Capacity Building in the Developing World. Front Genet [Internet]. 2019 Feb 15 [cited 2019 May 4];10. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6384230/
19. Maxson Jones K, Ankeny RA, Cook-Deegan R. The Bermuda Triangle: The Pragmatics, Policies, and rinciples for Data Sharing in the History of the Human Genome Project. J Hist Biol. 2018;51(4):693–805.
20. Cole DH. Learning from Lin: Lessons from the Natural Commons for the Knowledge Commons. In: Frischmann BM, Madison MJ, Strandburg KJ, editors. Governing Knowledge Commons. Oxford University Press; 2014. p. 45–68.
21. Geary J, Bubela T. Governance of a global genetic resource commons for non-commercial research: A case-study of the DNA barcode commons. Int J Commons. 2019 Apr 25;13(1):205–43.
22. Geary J, Reay T, Bubela T. The Impact of Heterogeneity in a Global Knowledge Commons: Implications for Governance of the DNA Barcode Commons. Int J Commons. 2019 Oct 30;13(2):909–930.