Sharing by design: Data and decentralized commons

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Science  11 Dec 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6266, pp. 1312-1314
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa7485

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Ambitious international data-sharing initiatives have existed for years in fields such as genomics, earth science, and astronomy. But to realize the promise of widespread sharing of scientific data, intellectual property, data privacy, national security, and other legal and policy obstacles must be overcome (1). Although these issues have attracted much attention in some circles, they have often taken a back seat to addressing technical challenges. Yet failure to account for legal and policy issues at the outset of a large transborder data-sharing project can lead to undue resource expenditures and data-sharing structures that may offer fewer benefits than hoped. Drawing on our experience with the Belmont Forum, a multinational earth change–research program, we propose a framework to help plan data-sharing arrangements with a focus on early-stage decisions including options for legal interoperability.