Infoscience

Thesis

Three essays on access to knowledge

The first chapter of this thesis, coauthored with Annamaria Conti, seeks to add an economic contribution to the current debate on using university licensing contracts to improve access to medicines in developing countries. We build a simple model in which we have a university licensing out an academic invention to a profit-maximizing pharmaceutical company. We compare three different types of licensing contracts that the university might use to enhance access to pharmaceuticals in the South: (1) an exclusive license limited to the North; (2) an exclusive license worldwide with a price cap in the South; and (3) an exclusive license worldwide with a price cap in the South and a clause specifying that the licensee would lose its exclusivity in the South if it does not supply the Southern market. We show that in a simple model with asymmetric information on production costs the latter type of contract dominates the two others. In the second chapter, coauthored with Nicolas Maystre, we reexamine the widely held belief that free availability of scientific articles increases the number of citations they receive. Since open access is relatively more attractive to authors of higher quality papers, regressing citations on open access and other controls yields upward-biased estimates. Using an instrumental variable approach, we find no significant effect of open access. Instead, self-selection of higher quality articles into open access explains at least part of the observed open access citation advantage. The third chapter uses an evidence-based approach to assess the difficulties faced by developing country scientists in accessing the scientific literature. I compare backward citations patterns of Swiss and Indian scientists in a database of 43'150 scientific papers published by scientists from either country in 2007. Controlling for fields and quality with citing journal fixed effects, I find that Indian scientists (1) have shorter references lists (2) are more likely to cite articles from open access journals and (3) are less likely to cite articles from expensive journals. The magnitude of the effects is small which can be explained by informal file sharing practices among scientists.

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