Category 2 Concern The Impact of Commercialization on the Nature and Direction of University Research

The impact of commercialization on University based research, particularly the effect of emphasizing the patenting process, has been the subject of a large degree of commentary (Heagerty, 588, Rosenberg, 392, Ducor, 13, Kurland, 761). For example, there is evidence that "involvement with commercialization and participation in academic-industry relationships are significantly associated with the tendency to withhold the results of research" (Blumenthal, et al., 1224, 1227, Blumenthal, 368, Blumenthal, 1291, Frankel, 1297). What impact does this climate of secrecy have on the advancement of science? Are clinically relevant data being withheld for the purposes of securing patent protection (Percy, 1)? Moreover, on a broader level there is concern that the emphasis on university/industry partnerships is, inter alia, affecting the objectivity of the researchers, eroding the quality of teaching, and distorting the priorities of universities.

While most of these concerns (to some extent) are undoubtedly well founded, they must be weighed against the reality that private investment, which often hinges on the potential for intellectual property protection, is viewed as a key ingredient of contemporary biomedical research. "In a society in which private industry is the only mechanism by which we can bring new knowledge to bear on practical application, relationships between industries and academics and health care institutions are essential" (Patterson and Emanuel, 316). A balance must be struck.

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