An open letter to the new editor-in-chief of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Attitudes and Social Cognition, urging the adoption of best practices for data sharing, reproducibility, and open science.
“Developed by the UK OpenPlant Synthetic Biology Research Centre and the BioBricks Foundation, OpenMTA honors the rights of researchers and promotes safe, responsible laboratory practices. In addition, the tool is designed to work within the practical realm of tech transfer and to be adaptable to the needs of multiple groups globally.
Goals for OpenMTA include:
- Free access to the tool, with no royalties or other fees except for appropriate and nominal fees for preparation and distribution;
- The ability for researchers to modify or repurpose materials available through OpenMTA;
- Unrestricted selling and sharing of materials, whether it’s part of a collaboration or derivative work;
- Availability to all kinds of institutions including academic, industrial, federal and community research centers
In its approach to tech transfer, Open MTA is designed to reduce transaction costs, support research collaboration across institutions and even nations, and provide a way for researchers and their labs to be credited for the materials they share.”
Abstract: The core feature of trusts—holding property for the benefit of others—is well suited to constructing a research community that treats reagents as public goods.
[From the body of the article:] “Under an open science trust, reagents are treated as a public-good resource governed by principles that promote the public interest, in this case, open science. Our open science trust agreement codifies these public-good principles. Under its terms, a recipient of research reagents becomes a “trustee” of the reagents. Trustees are bound by principles that specifically prohibit filing any patent claims that would restrict use of the reagents by others. The result is to create and expand an open science community connected by a common commitment to the foundational aims of the reagent generators.
A trust is a legal relationship whereby one party—called the trustee—is given control over property but must use it for the benefit of others—called the beneficiaries. In this regard, a trust contrasts with direct legal ownership over property, which allows owners to use the property for their own ends and to prevent others from using or benefiting from it. That is how we normally think about tangible goods such as real estate and intangible ones such as patented biomedical inventions.
A trust places a duty on those who possess entrusted assets to manage those assets for the benefit of particular third parties or, in the case of charitable trusts, in furtherance of particular objects that benefit the public. Trusts are created by appointing trustees under a legal document that enumerates specific obligations in dealing with trust property. Private trusts—those with individual beneficiaries—are often used for tax and estate planning purposes. Charitable trusts, by contrast, are dedicated to serving the public, as opposed to particular individuals, and must have definite charitable objects that guide the trustee’s use of trust property. In effect, the “public” constitutes the beneficiary of a charitable trust. Charitable trusts are often administered by a group of trustees whose joint efforts to further the aims of the trust can foster a communal sense of purpose….”
“The SGC is engaged in pre-competitive research to facilitate the discovery of new medicines. As part of its mission the SGC is generating reagents and knowledge related to human proteins and proteins from human parasites. The SGC believes that its output will have maximal benefit if released into the public domain without restriction on use, and thus has adopted the following Open Access policy.
The SGC and its scientists are committed to making their research outputs (materials and knowledge) available without restriction on use. This means that the SGC will promptly place its results in the public domain and will not agree to file for patent protection on any of its research outputs. It will seek the same commitment from any research collaborator….”
“The Open Material Transfer Agreement (OpenMTA) is a simple, standardized legal tool that enables individuals and organizations to share their materials on an open basis….Developed as a collaborative effort led by the BioBricks Foundation and the OpenPlant Initiative, with input from researchers, technology transfer professionals, social scientists, lawyers, and other stakeholders from across the globe, the OpenMTA reflects the values of open communities and the practical realities of technology transfer….”
Abstract: The personal, social and economic burden of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is high and therapeutic approaches are only partially effective. Therefore, there is an urgent need to understand the cellular and molecular alterations in PTSD brains in order to design more effective treatment strategies. Although brain imaging strategies have considerably improved our understanding of PTSD, these strategies cannot identify molecular and cellular changes. Post-mortem examination of the brain is a crucial strategy to advance our understanding of the underlying neuropathology, neurochemistry and molecular pathways of PTSD. Unfortunately, there is a worldwide serious shortage of human psychiatric brain tissue available for post-mortem research. Therefore, the Netherlands Brain Bank launched a prospective donor programme to recruit brain donors with psychiatric diseases in 2012: Netherlands Brain Bank for Psychiatry (NBB-Psy). NBB-Psy aims to establish a resource of brain tissue of seven psychiatric disorders: post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Participants of several large and clinically characterized research cohorts of psychiatric patients, including relatives and controls, were asked prospectively to register as brain donors. Registered donors complete medical questionnaires annually. The number of registered donors with a psychiatric disorder at the NBB has risen from 312 (most of which were patients with major depressive disorder) in the year 2010 to 1187 in 2017, of which 146 are PTSD patients. The NBB guarantees worldwide open access to biomaterials and data. Any researcher affiliated with a research institute can apply.
“‘A partnership between the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) at the University of Toronto and U of T’s Faculty of Law has yielded a new concept that could change the way scientists share research tools. Aled Edwards, who leads the SGC, is lead author of a recent paper that applies the concept of a legal trust to open research reagents — substances that scientists use to test biological hypotheses and give insight into potential new therapies. Under this model, the researchers who receive reagents would become ‘trustees’ obligated to treat the materials as public goods. The article is published in Science Translational Medicine….Academic researchers use public funds to create reagents to use the lab. Currently any reagent created at any University is legally the property of the institution and is shared only under contract. Although this is the status quo, many of us believe science shouldn’t belong to an institution or an individual, but to society and that our work should be viewed as a public good,’ says Edwards, who is also a professor in the Departments of Medical Biophysics and Molecular Genetics and an expert in open science drug discovery.”
“There is no central authority determining the validity of scientific claims. Accumulation of scientific knowledge proceeds via open communication with the community. Sharing evidence for scientific claims facilitates critique, extension, and application. Despite the importance of open communication for scientific progress, present norms do not provide strong incentives for individual researchers to share data, materials, or their research process. Journals can provide such incentives by acknowledging open practices with badges in publications.
There are circumstances, however, in which open practices are not possible or advisable. For example, sharing some human participant data could violate confidentiality. When badge criteria cannot be met, a description in place of the badge can articulate why. Badges do not define good practice; badges certify that a particular practice was followed. Disclosure makes explicit the conditions under which the ethic of openness is superseded by other ethical concerns. Here, we introduce three badges to acknowledge Open Data, Open Materials, and Preregistration….”
“It appears not just unfair, but absurdly so. The US government paid for research that produced a patented drug, the patents were licensed exclusively to a Japanese firm, and that firm is now committing price discrimination against the US. Astellas Pharma is selling its anti-prostate cancer drug, Xtandi, for over $129,000 per year per patient in the United States – triple the price of the drug in Japan. Alas, this situation is not unusual. Many drugs that were financed by US taxpayers are sold in the US at exorbitant prices, but are much cheaper in other high-income industrialized nations. This differential price problem could be solved easily. However, the US government has consistently refused to exercise its march-in rights in order to lower drug prices….”