Over its 30 or so years of existence, the genomic commons-the worldwide collection of publicly accessible repositories of human and nonhuman genomic data-has enjoyed remarkable, perhaps unprecedented, success. Thanks to the rapid public data release policies initiated by the Human Genome Project, free access to a vast array of scientific data is now the norm, not only in genomics, but in scientific disciplines of all descriptions. And far from being a monolithic creation of bureaucratic fiat, the genomic commons is an exemplar of polycentric, multistakeholder governance. But like all dynamic and rapidly evolving systems, the genomic commons is not without its challenges. Issues involving scientific priority, intellectual property, individual privacy, and informed consent, in an environment of data sets of exponentially expanding size and complexity, must be addressed in the near term. In this review, we describe the characteristics and unique history of the genomic commons, then address some of the trends, challenges, and opportunities that we envision for this valuable public resource in the years to come.
Keywords: Bermuda Principles; GA4GH; Human Genome Project; commons; data release; data sharing; ethics; genome; informed consent; law; privacy.