Cory Doctorow: The government wants to make all publicly funded research available – but the same must be demanded of pharmas also...
recently had lunch with as staunch an advocate for open access as you'll ever meet (I won't name him, because it would be rude to attribute casual remarks to him without permission). We were talking about plans to mandate free and open publication of publicly funded scientific research. In the USA, there's the Federal Public Research Act, and in the UK, there's the coalition government's announcement that publicly funded research should be made available at no cost, under a Creative Commons licence that permits unlimited copying.
We'd been talking about Ben Goldacre's excellent new book, Bad Pharma, in which Goldacre documents the problem of "missing data" in pharmaceutical research (he says about half of the clinical trials undertaken by the pharmaceutical industry are never published). The unpublished trials are, of course, the trials that show the pharma companies' new products in unflattering lights – trials that suggest that their drugs don't work very well, or don't work at all, or are actively harmful.
The decades-old industry practice of suppressing scientific evidence (and some independent researchers doing the same) leads Goldacre to declare that nothing we know about modern medicine should be assumed to be correct, and he makes the urgent case for forcing the release of all that pharma dark matter so scientists can re-run the numbers and work out what actually does work.