Intellectual property rights have become increasingly important in scientific research. As the legal regime has been tightened and attitudes of funders, employers and researchers have changed, serious challenges are emerging to the free flow of ideas and information on which the scientific enterprise rests. It is important that individual scientists are aware of their rights and convinced to use them in the public good. Learned Publishing (2005)18, 91–94 Sir Roger Elliott Who owns scientific data? The impact of intellectual property rights on the scientific publication chain 91 L E A R N E D P U B L I S H I N G V O L . 1 8 N O . 2 A P R I L 2 0 0 5 which leads directly to IPRs is likely to damage the health of science in the longer term. Moreover evidence shows that, while there are a few big wins, most academic institutions draw little financial benefit from the exploitation of IPRs. These issues have been broadly addressed by the Royal Society in a report called ‘Keeping Science Open: The Effects of Intellectual Property Policy on the Conduct of Science’ which can be found at their website (www.royalsoc.ac.uk). As a result there is an increasing perception in some quarters, derived from the idea of the ‘knowledge society’ and ‘knowledge economy’ that information such as scientific facts should be regarded as a commodity with monetary value. This runs counter to the traditional argument that publicly funded research, particularly in universities, should be driven by the general spirit of enquiry, and based on the merit of the work from the point of view of science, rather than its potential for short-term exploitation. If IPRs exist in the scientific information which results from research, then serious questions arise as to who owns them. The legal framework governing IPRs has been strengthened in recent years in a number of ways, usually by strengthening monopoly rights, e.g. by restriction of exceptions, in the face of perceived threats to the rights holders from new technologies. In this paper the difficulties that arise in the three areas of patents, copyrights and databases will be briefly considered.