Legal confusion threatens to slow data science

Steve Babuljak Daniel Himmelstein, pictured at his previous research post at the University of California, San Francisco. Knowledge from millions of biological studies encoded into one network — that is Daniel Himmelstein’s alluring description of Hetionet, a free online resource that melds data from 28 public sources on links between drugs, genes and diseases. But for a product built on public information, obtaining legal permissions has been surprisingly tough. When Himmelstein, a data scientist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, contacted researchers for permission to reproduce their work openly, several said they were surprised that he had to ask. “It never really crossed my mind that licensing is an issue here,” says Jörg Menche, a bioinformatician at the Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. Menche…


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