Why ask why? Or, who wants raw knowledge?
Anonymous Coward, PhD (I love the PhD added on there) makes a great point by saying we're tapping into the money system too far down from the source.
Since everybody responded but nobody commented specifically on my little equation notation, here's a kind of flowchart of the money story the way I think about it:
person --> pays taxes --> government --> pays grants --> pays scientist --> finds stuff out --> publishes it
--> publishing company makes money --> drug company reads it --> gets grant from government -->
pays some MDs --> clinical trial --> good results --> publishes it --> publishing company makes money -->
doctors read the paper/salespeople show up at their office --> doctors prescribe the drugs -->
doctors get kickbacks --> patient pays for insurance -->
insurance company pays the drug company and the doctor and still makes a profit--> person is cured -->
person goes back to work --> person pays taxes and leftover hospital bills for the rest of their life. THE END
Not unlike my all-time favorite episode of Southpark, where the gnomes use the business plan:
Collect Underpants! -->???--> Profit!
The scientist only makes money if they get a patent on what they find out, and much of what we find out is not patentable (as far as I know?).
Meanwhile, the government is paying out, paying out. The publishing companies are raking it in. The MDs get paid by the government and the drug companies AND the insurance company and often also get paid directly by the patient when the insurance deductible kicks in.
What fun! (I'm rubbing my hands together like a rich, evil doctor!)
So actually from the way I told this story, our problem is that we tap into the money too early, and the amounts get larger as the process goes on, so it would be better to have multiple buckets at several branches downstream, rather than being too near the source (where it is most tightly regulated)?
But you asked, if we were going to tap into the system higher up, would anyone pay for the raw information?
Idea 1: What if there were companies that employed scientists to fill up giant databases?
Just databases. Not papers. Just data. Then drug companies and insurance companies would pay to use the databases. That might work. It's essentially how market research is done.
Does anybody really want to know anything badly enough to pay for it? Aren't book sales going down? Isn't the internet essentially free (so long as you don't mind Google adsense)?
On the one hand, it seems like the Information Age might work in our favor. Maybe the public really does just want to know. But who could afford to pay for all the equipment we'd need?
Idea 2: We could market ourselves out to do research on individual, disgustingly wealthy but inherently ill (inbred?) families. Each one of these bazillionaire families could have their own team of private scientist researchers working on their own private mix of Alzheimer's, anorexia, infertility, wrinkles and cancer. Or whatever it is that insanely rich people suffer from.
So privatization is always another option. It worked for artists in the Middle Ages.
I'm just saying. We need some concrete suggestions here, people. Get creative.