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Institutionalizing global genetic-resource commons. Global Strategies for accessing and using essential public knowledge assets in the life sciences

Final Report Summary - GENCOMMONS (Institutionalizing global genetic-resource commons. Global Strategies for accessing and using essential public knowledge assets in the life sciences.)

Research on microbial, plant and animal genetic resource exchange networks shows that networking pools of genetic resources in local and global commons provides a workable alternative to market-based solutions, which have shown to be unable to generate sufficient investment in the vast quantities of genetic resources that are neglected because of their low commercial market value. GENCOMMONS analyzed the conditions for the further institutionalization of these socially and ecologically valuable commons, from a socio-economic, legal and methodological perspective.

First, to develop the socio-economic design principles, GENCOMMONS conducted a set of large scale surveys throughout 2013 and 2014, with in total over 200 interviews and over 200 survey responses. Additional field research of prominent territorial transition processes in France, China and Germany were organized in 2015 and 2016 to deepen the main findings. Three key lessons come out of this work:

(1) The first is the importance of the formation of research networks above a minimal thresholds size, so that the benefits from the creation of a public good are large enough to motivate the members to contribute to the pool (Dedeurwaerdere, 2012a; Dedeurwaerdere et al., 2016a and 2016b).
(2) The second is the importance of building social capital, mainly related to group identity associated to the public goods production and social reputational effects, in the digitally integrated research infrastructures (Stromberg and Dedeurwaerdere, 2013)
(3) The third is the importance of training and knowledge brokerage amongst the various actors (Dedeurwaerdere, 2012b; Dedeurwaerdere et al., 2015; Coolsaet 2016a ; Coolsaet 2016b).

Second, the institutional analysis has shown that, given sufficient social capital and network size, it is possible to support the exchange networks through using standard viral licenses for preventing the restriction of the public availability of genetic resources (Dedeurwaerdere et al., 2013a and 2013b; Batur and Dedeurwaerdere, 2014; Reichman et al., 2016). A major measure of the success of the proposed standard contractual models is the application of the GENCOMMONS outcomes to the development of a model contract which has been adopted by the EU funded metagenomics research infrastructure Micro B3.

Third, the methodological part of the research has developed and further elaborated the principles of science-society research partnerships, to fully implement and test the proposed economic and legal solutions for fully institutionalizing the genetic resource commons. The key hypothesis of the approach is that such transdisciplinary partnerships can benefit from the know-how and the social capital developed by societal actors involved in concrete problem-solving and collective societal experimentation processes (Dedeurwaerdere, T. 2013 ; Popa et al., 2014).

CITED PROJECT PUBLICATIONS: – Batur, F. and Dedeurwaerdere, T. 2014. Life Sc, Soc&Pol.10:14 – Coolsaet 2016a. Journal of Rural Studies 47 – Coolsaet et al. 2016b. Biological Conservation 197 – Coolsaet, B., Dedeurwaerdere T. et al. Resources. 2013(2) – Dedeurwaerdere, T., 2012a. IJEES 26(3) – Dedeurwaerdere, T. et al. 2012b. In: The Digital Public Domain. Open Book Publ. – Dedeurwaerdere, T. 2013. Sustainability 2013(5) – Dedeurwaerdere, T. et al., 2013a. In: The Nagoya Protocol in Perspective. Brill/Martinus Nijhoff – Dedeurwaerdere, T. et al. 2013b. In: Common Pools of Genetic Resources. Earthscan – Dedeurwaerdere et al. 2015. Ecol. Econ.119 – Dedeurwaerdere et al. 2016a. Envt. Sc. Pol. 58 – Dedeurwaerdere et al. 2016b. Envt. Sc. Pol. 55 – Popa et al., 2015. Futures (65) – Reichman et al. 2016. Cambridge University Press – Stromberg, P.M. Dedeurwaerdere, T., et al. 2013. Envt. Sc. Pol. 33.