The team is joined by GuestKats Mirko Brüß, Rosie Burbidge, Nedim Malovic, Frantzeska Papadopolou, Mathilde Pavis, and Eibhlin Vardy
InternKats: Rose Hughes, Ieva Giedrimaite, and Cecilia Sbrolli
SpecialKats: Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo (TechieKat), Hayleigh Bosher (Book Review Editor), and Tian Lu (Asia Correspondent).

Monday, 16 July 2007

Conservation Commons

The IPKat - who expects that he is not alone - has been invited to join the Conservation Commons list serve. This is said to be "established for practitioners interested in issues related to open access to biodiversity data and information within the conservation community". According to the email he received,

"In 2004, a group of conservation and scientific organizations met in IUCN [IPKat note: I think that's the International Union for the Conservation of Nature] to address barriers in access to essential data and information of importance for the conservation of biodiversity. Out of this meeting was formed the Conservation Commons – a collaboration of institutions seeking ways to collectively solve many of the access challenges individual organizations and institutions involved in biodiversity conservation deal with on a daily basis. Our work is essentially organized into four key areas:

§ Improving biodiversity data interoperability standards;

§ Expanding open access publishing, and tackling the legacy issue in this area;

§ Addressing legal, institutional, and ethical issues and barriers to access;

§ Integrating biodiversity data into decision support systems and policy development.


Left: beetle grabbing a fast-food snack before the conservationists move in

Our work is also premised on, and guided by, the following core ideas:

§ Open access to biodiversity data and information, best practice, and past experience is a key prerequisite to future conservation success;

§ Access to data and information by all concerned groups/stakeholders is also fundamental to effective environmental governance;

§ Effective environmental governance and conservation success, in turn, represents an important foundation for sustainable development and ultimately poverty alleviation - particularly at local or community levels".

The email concludes by inviting the IPKat to join at

The IPKat gets this slightly uncomfortable feeling: when you read the IUCN and Conservation Commons literature, there's practically nothing in it that you can tangibly disagree with since it's all incredibly plausible an agreeable. It's full of all the words that make us nod our heads sagely and feel good.

Right: mutant genetically modified butterfly prepares to eat its prey.

And yet the reader gets a very real feeling that IUCN/Conservation Commons presages a world in which IP rights - particularly biopatents - are not very welcome. He says it's important for those of us who care about the world (ie all of us), and who believe that IP rights are only as good or bad as the people who use them let them be (probably most of us), to engage in dialogue and see how patents - the world's greatest collection of publicly accessible and freely exploitable technical data - can help. Merpel says, here's a list of bodies that have endorsed the Conservation Commons Principles. It includes BP, Chevron-Texaco, NASA, Rio Tinto and Shell. Isn't that enough dialogue for now?

IUCN here
Conservation Commons here

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