Thursday, October 18, 2012

Conservation Commons

Is the Conservation Commons dead? A review document submitted by the current secretariat of the Conservation Commons at WCMC regarding its principles is currently being discussed at the 11th Conference of the Parties of the Convention of Biological Diversity in Hyderabad in document cop-11-wg-02-crp-01. The relevant paragraph is 14 and has the following language:
14.    Notes the recommendations made by the Conservation Commons in document UNEP/CBD/COP/11/INF/8 and calls upon Parties and other stakeholders to consider how they can most effectively address barriers to data access that are under their direct control with a view to contributing to the achievement of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and Targets 1 and 19 in particular, and requests SBSTTA to develop further guidance thereon;
This is extremely lame: "address barriers to data" seems to be all but what has been at the core of the CBD, that is Access and Benefit Sharing. But those at the meeting selling the CC, and most likely the recipients of such a service, obviously did not, do not want to understand the relevance of the notion to have a Commons. If so, the sentence would have at least be written "REMOVE barriers to data"

In my view this just resonates the partnership of the conservation community with the private industry that is all but for open access to data, and of ignorance by the respective policy makers at this policy making forum.

But it also means, that we have to be more alert of these not easily understandable processes and participate more actively. It is always easier to complain afterwards.

To be afraid of the future or not to be

John Wilbank's talk at TED is a highlight and stimualting at the same time, and puts the ongoing debate about privay rights, right now in the EU, into a very different light, if not makes it very questionable. Are we really all so much afraid about the future?

This reminds me of the ongoing discussion on Open Access in the scientific world. Similar to the debate on privacy rights, where a central point is to deny Google the right to federate all their different databases and even more, break down restrictions to re-use data - data can only be used for the purpose it has been collected according to EU privacy law, scientists debate about access to single PDFs. Neubauer, as an example,  misses in his column the point, that there is new emerging power in a federation of all the content that we scientists produce, and that this is the really new character the Internet is all about. 

Why are we so defensive in a world that we all enjoy, where we have no experience with this new tools that already make our lives completely transformed? We all look back to the totalitarian regimes that where spying on us, and at the same time just accept that we are spied on by our on democratic states in the name of our protection against terrorism. We have no control on that - so why are we worried about data that we in many case produce ourselves, deliberately because we use Facebook, Twitter or not so deliberately, because we do not understand our gadgets well enough to stop recording out actions?

As John states, we should rather adhere, as an example to the principle of consent to research , be proactive by putting our data out with the foresight, that a federation of many data sets together with the ingenuity of people doing things with it, like analyzing medical data in John's case,  will save our lives, not the pricacy policy restricting the use of our medical records.

The consequences of non-access we have been living so far and seem to increasingly promote should also  be a warning to us:
Back in 2002, governments around the world agreed that they would achieve a significant reduction in biodiversity loss by 2010. But the deadline came and went and the rate of loss increased BBC News, Oct 12, 2012.
We scientists are one of the culprits because, and this is not just since 2002 but in fact 1992 when the Convention on Biological Diversity has been born, we just hide our information and at best give it up on pdf at once.