ISSJ - N° 188 - Remembering Slavery / Exploring the Microbiological Commons

June 2006

Everyone is in some sense the heir, however indirect, to the Atlantic slave trade, which played a major role in structuring the modern world-economic system and had effects far beyond those who directly suffered or profited from it. What does this legacy entail today?

The first dossier in this issue sketches some connections between understanding the past and making sense of the contemporary politics of memory. It thereby helps to open a space for debate on a future in which the memory of slavery can be an aspect of self-understanding.
(Editorial adviser: Ali Moussa Iye)

The second dossier considers the legal, economic and institutional challenges thrown up by rapidly changing scientific and technical relations to the microbial world. Microbiological information has a complex character, with features of both a public good and a common pool resource. At the same time, it is a major commercial issue: the costs of risky research may not be incurred without the expectation of proprietary profit to fund them. Hence there is an inherent tension between sharing materials and research on an open, non-proprietary basis with maintaining the types of incentives required to invest in doing safe, high quality research on a sustained basis. The articles discuss these questions, focusing in particular on the role of technology and of institutions and on the contribution of collective action to building robust knowledge commons and to countering the tendency to enclose and privatize the intellectual public domain.
(Editorial adviser: Tom Dedeurwaerdere)

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