Activity: Talk or presentation › Oral presentation
The study and observation of the natural world has long been a feature of human development. For much of that time, such study and observation, and reporting of its findings, has been undertaken by curious – or even accidental – amateurs. The rise of the professional scientist is only a comparatively recent phenomenon.
Professionalisation of biology has been a mixed experience for the discipline. Formalisation of training and education of scientists has been accompanied by increasingly restricted dissemination of data, and rigorous protection of discovery, often enforced by law, in a way that is inconsistent with fundamental principles of scientific enquiry. For sub-disciplines with greater commercialisation potential, such as medicine and established biotechnologies, professionalisation, protection, and ‘closed’ access have become the standardised – and arguably sustainable – way of doing business. For other subdisciplines of biology with fewer immediately-discernible economic benefits, and basic biological research, funding is scarce, opportunities for return on investment are fewer, and engagement is more likely to be based on pure scientific curiosity, or even altruism, than profit. ‘Open biology’ models, accompanied by adequate, but potentially different, protection mechanisms may represent an alternative to the existing dominant model of closed knowledge and intellectual property protection.