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Biological Resource Centers

Biological Resource Centers: Knowledge Hubs for the Life Sciences

Scott Stern
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    Biological Resource Centers
    Book Description:

    Biological resource centers (BRCs) collect, certify, and distribute organisms for use in research and in the development of commercial products in the pharmaceutical, agricultural, and biotechnology industries. They maintain a large and varied collection, including cell lines, micro-organisms, recombinant DNA material, biological media and reagents, and the information technology tools that allow researchers to access biological materials. BRCs have established themselves as a crucial element in the life science innovation infrastructure, from their early impact on virology, to their crucial role in addressing cross-culture contamination in the 1970s, to their current leadership in promoting a global biodiversity network. Today they confront new challenges, resulting from shifts in the nature of biological research, the interaction between public and private researchers, and the increasing focus on biosecurity. This book provides a systematic economic assessment of the impact of biological resource centers through their role in facilitating cumulative knowledge in the life sciences and building on their roles as knowledge hubs -institutions that facilitate the transfer of scientific and technical knowledge among members of a research community. The knowledge hubs framework offers insight into how to develop and evaluate policy proposals that impinge on the control and access of biological materials. Stern argues that science and innovation policy must be premised on a clear understanding of the role that knowledge hubs play and the policy mechanisms that encourage their sustained growth and effectiveness.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-9754-8
    Subjects: Education, Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    This book examines the history and explores the impact of biological resource centers, the world’s “living libraries.” These biological resource centers collect, store, and distribute varied biological materials—including cell lines, microorganisms, recombinant DNA material, media, and reagents—and provide the information technology tools that allow researchers to access the biological materials. Because these centers authenticate, preserve, and offer access to the materials that underlie new knowledge, they allow results produced by one generation of researchers to be validated and built on by follow-on researchers. Biological research centers (BRCs) enhance the research process itself by providing a transparent and standardized...

  5. 2 Evolution and Adaptation: A Short History of Biological Resource Centers
    (pp. 9-35)

    The life sciences revolution is still in its infancy. But compared with other scientific and technological pursuits, the life sciences have grown dramatically over the past few decades. Most media coverage focuses on particular scientific discoveries or on the ethical and economic concerns raised by such breakthroughs. However, the impact of scientific and commercial research depends crucially on the presence of institutions to facilitate the growth and use of knowledge over time. Despite the lack of headlines, these institutions—and the policies that nurture their growth and development—are essential to maintaining an effective research system.

    The role of biological...

  6. 3 Climbing atop the Shoulders of Giants: BRCs as Cumulative Knowledge Hubs
    (pp. 36-55)

    By helping establish norms and procedures for authenticating and exchanging biological materials, biological resource centers have been crucial in the development of the life sciences in the past half century. Though the centers are invisible to the public, scientists are keenly aware of their impact, from their early influence on virology to their crucial part in addressing cross-culture contamination in the 1970s to their current leading role in creating an international BRC network. As highlighted by a comment that echoed through the author’s interviews with depositors and users of BRC materials: “They are like the Library of Congress for biological...

  7. 4 A Penny for Your Quotes? The Impact of BRCs on Life Sciences Research
    (pp. 56-75)
    Jeffrey L. Furman

    Qualitative analysis suggests that the knowledge and materials associated with biological resource centers have an important impact on the cumulative research that is so central to scientific advancement, technological progress, and long-term economic prosperity. Chapter 3 identifies four distinct advantages associated with BRCs: authentication and certification of deposited materials, long-term preservation of materials, provision of independent access to materials, and exploitation of economies of scale and scope. BRCs amplify the eventual impact of a given piece of research, over a longer period of time and across a wider swath of the scientific community.

    This chapter evaluates these claims regarding the...

  8. 5 Policy Challenges and Principles: Implications for BRC Stakeholders
    (pp. 76-104)

    The value of biological resource centers derives from their ability to amplify the impact of life sciences research; their ability to maintain their value depends on effective policy. Though valuable, biological resource centers are inherently fragile as scientific institutions. Scientists draw on materials and expertise provided by BRCs in conducting their research, but they take full credit for whatever discoveries result. For publicly funded research, the rewards of discovery may include scientific prestige and career advancement; for private companies, the rewards offer the opportunity to earn commercial returns. In all but a few circumstances, researchers do not explicitly acknowledge the...

  9. 6 Future Challenges
    (pp. 105-109)

    This volume has provided a systematic assessment of the impact of biological resource centers on the production of cumulative knowledge. The analysis has highlighted the crucial role played by BRCs and related institutions in fostering scientific advancement over the twentieth century through the acquisition, authentication, preservation, and distribution of biomaterials. Simply put, BRCs serve as cumulative knowledge hubs for life sciences research. Indeed, as demonstrated in chapter 4, BRCs are not mere repositories of information; they magnify the impact of published research. At current levels of spending, enhancing the stock of authenticated biomaterials is likely to have a high rate...

  10. Appendix A: Econometric Results
    (pp. 110-113)
  11. Appendix B: Biological Resource Centers: Policy Implications for Stakeholder Communities
    (pp. 114-116)
  12. References
    (pp. 117-122)
  13. Index
    (pp. 123-128)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 129-129)