Date: November 23, 1992

Editor's Note: Indications are that the National Institutes of Health's controversial gene-patenting initiative, now widely seen as moribund, is really as good as dead. At press time, a final decision on the matter was still in the hands of Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan, but sources at HHS feel the initiative is on insecure legal footing and will be dropped. Before the proposal more or less gave up its ghost, however, it served to stimulate animated and--one hopes--enduringly valuable debate over the validity of a scientist's or institution's claim of proprietorship of a research discovery. New York University professor Dorothy Nelkin--a sociologist and seasoned observer of the science world--was among the commentators who felt deeply about the NIH proposal, its implications for basic research, and its potentially negative impact. In the following--written before it became apparent that the NIH proposal was to fail--Nelkin...

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