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Corporate-Sponsored Research Untrustworthy

michael posted more than 13 years ago | from the cigarettes-aren't-addictive dept.

Science 206

capt.Hij submitted this interesting story about the growing amount of corporate-sponsored research at public universities. The Bayh-Dole Act (see here too), passed in 1980, allowed research performed with public money to be patented by private companies, so we're paying most of the bills, the companies are reaping all the profits and in the process, corrupting the research as well.

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not as sinister as you think (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#137278)

i've worked at a major univeristy do drug tests for big companies, as well as tobacco firms. it's not that these firms are stifling the research that's coming out, it's more that they say where the research is going to go. unlike every class on research methods, most researchers nowadays do the experiments first and form their final opinions after they get the results. that way it looks like they knew what was going to happen beforehand, and are therefore worth the money they're getting paid. usually what happens is that a study is suggested. a hypothesis is formed. research is performed. if the reaserch backs up the hypothesis, so much the better. if it doesn't, time to come up with a theory that agrees with the data. when the studies are sponsered by major corporations, it just gets to that last step a little earlier. the researchers usually just end up doing research that will say what it is supposed to. they get published, and the company gets scientific data that backs up their point. the levels that statisical data can be massaged are amazing, and you can pretty much come up with whatever conclusion you want to if you're careful about how you run your ANOVA series.

What about cisco, sgi, netscape, sun... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#137279)

Note I attend Stanford so I'm more familiar with it.
Cisco was started to connect stanford computer networks together.

Jim Clark developped chip design etc... for sgi while at Stanford...

Netscape was also started by Jim Clark and was based off of Mosaic, another university funded project.

And then there's sun. Which is more Stanford stuff along with using Berkeley BSD...

The first chip that went into a Yamaha keyboard was developped at Stanford...

I guess founding these companies and use of university researched information has been an "evil corruption" of the pursuit of public information :P

If I were more knowledgeable, I would start listing off drugs which were researched with university money and then were developped and owned by drug companies.

I wish slashdot would get over its leftist bullshit and stop ranting against evil corporations and "corruption" of public blah blah blah. I would also like a more balanced presentation of the situation than a concise and heavilly opiniated article.

Yes, this is offtopic (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#137281)

But why are moderators using all their points to mod things DOWN??? Right now there have been 5 fps and they are all -1. Why dont you read the moderator guidelines - the main purpose of mod points is to make the more interesting posts greater, not to mod down (although it needs to be done at times, yes).

Thank you for your concern, but I am able to skip over a fp without your help.

Re:The Christian Science Monitor? (1)

Derek Pomery (2028) | more than 13 years ago | (#137293)

Actually, their bias is not at all orthogonal, since Christian Science holds that all illnesses are in the mind.
It is simply that the Monitor is able to restrain these religious biases from their reporting. Hopefully successfully.

Re:Sad (2)

sheldon (2322) | more than 13 years ago | (#137294)

Keep in mind that the corporations are paying for the research above and beyond tax dollars.

I think perhaps the question is whether the price tag is too low, or they have too much control on what gets done.

Re:University Research (1)

Art Tatum (6890) | more than 13 years ago | (#137296)

Personally I'd like to see less military oriented public funds research and more commercial interests.

But the biggest technological advances come from the military. Corporate interests always seek to get the job done cheaply. This usually just means tweaking existing technologies for more economical use. The military is always looking for the most significant advantage over the enemy, no matter what the cost. This means they are more likely to try new ideas without concern over cost or *immediate* benefit.

Read the article, mate. (1)

Apuleius (6901) | more than 13 years ago | (#137298)

"In exchange for funding, Novartis
would be allowed to sift through the
research of the department of plant
and microbial biology at Berkeley's
College of Natural Resources -
licensing up to about one-third of the
researchers' output."

Answer. (2)

Apuleius (6901) | more than 13 years ago | (#137299)

It doesn't matter whether it works, what matters is whether it pays. For example, it is much easier to run a study of a drug with the maker's cooperation, than for example, to run a compilation of statistics on complications from the drug after it is in general use. Case in point: phen-fen. And until such an independent study comes up, you're rolling in the dough, as is what happened with phen-fen.

No, Virginia, corporations don't taxes. (2)

Apuleius (6901) | more than 13 years ago | (#137300)

Shareholders do. And it's one thing for
a corporation to strike a deal with a
public university such that it helps both.
But for a corporation to use public-funded
to corrupt the scientific community, and
to silence research that may hurt its bottom
line, is unacceptable.

But SOMEONE needs to make money! (1)

mattkime (8466) | more than 13 years ago | (#137304)

As shown by Microsoft (an honorable and trustworthy corporation) money cannot be made unless a company owns the patent. To let just anyone reap the benefits of this knowledge would simply result in low cost (low cost=low value) products.

Do not allow ideas to die in the public domain. Patent them, defend them with lawyers, and lead consumers to improved lives with such products.

As a consumer, I am lost without such guidance in my life.

Your question answered in numerous ways in article (5)

FreeUser (11483) | more than 13 years ago | (#137309)

How can you reap profits AND corrupt research? I mean, if you get some students to develop something for you, if their research is bogus, then the product's not going to work, is it?

Well, if you had bothered to read the article the answer would have been obvious. Allow me to recap just one of several ways research is corrupted by corporate influence:

You are selling a drug to consumer that purports to offer some well defined benefit (relieving arthritis pain, for example). Your research, which is funded by the drug manufacturer, conducted in a scientific and unbiased manner, reveals that the drug is completely ineffective (in a double blind study, for example, you find the results to be no different among the test group as among the group given a placebo). By corrupting the results, cooking the data, and making the study confirm the effectiveness of the drug instead, continued sales (and perhaps even a growth in sales) is confirmed. The sponsor makes money, the researcher continues to get grants and "gifts." The only loosers are the public consumers and the scientific community. In other words, all of society with the exception of those perpetrating the fraud.

A more far reaching example is the cooked research funded by oil companies which was designed to undermine arguments against green-house gas emission reductions (also cited by the article you failed to read). I leave the ramifications of treating such corrupted research as scientifically valid, and failing to adjust public policy as a result, as an excersize to the reader (hint: don't by low-lying coastal real estate).

Re:Well what were you expecting...? (2)

Dr.Dubious DDQ (11968) | more than 13 years ago | (#137310)

The government, effectively, is a big corporation. Specifically, it's sort of a giantic insurance company.

"Insurance" is basically a way of spreading risks - everyone who MIGHT be affected by a problem pools their money, and those random few who ARE affected get the money and/or its equivalent in resources to help deal with it...minus the administrative costs, executive salaries and perks, etc. You pay your "premiums" (taxes) for "Foreign Invasion Insurance", "Civil Rights Insurance", "Ability-To-Get-From-One-City-To-Another-And/Or-Mo ve Freight-Between-Them Insurance" (i.e. interstate highways), "Unemployment Insurance", "Criminal Activity Insurance", etc. etc. If, for example, someone burglarizes your house, "US Government Insurance Corp" pays for the attempt to track down and recover the stolen goods, to find the criminal, and penalize them, etc.

The only problem many of us have with this is that we only have one insurance company to choose from, and in many cases we are required to pay for insurance we REALLY don't want ("Government-Buildings-Not-Having-Expensive-Enough -Art insurance","Media-Corporations-Need-More-Revenue-S treams insurance", etc.) and we cannot get the corporation to offer some types of insurance that we might actually want (e.g. "Corporate-Hijacking-Of-Fair-Use-Rights Insurance", "Personal Privacy Insurance", "At-Least-Equal[to Corporations]-Protection-Under-The-Law insurance" [under US copyright law, Corporations explicitly get a longer copyright term than actual human beings do, as I understand it...], etc.)

The difficult part of the problem, as I see it, is getting as much power as is reasonable back down to the individual, rather than having to choose whether private corporations get more power or the gigantic government corporation gets more power. (Or, in the US apparently, whether you want to give still more power to "old-style" private corporations [e.g. manufacturing, power, oil, etc.] and the gigantic US Government Corporation, or to "new-style" private corporations [e.g. media companies and other "intellectual property" barons, etc.] and the gigantic US Government Corporation. That seems to be the choice between the two political parties who share the power here these days...].

Don't mind me, just feeling cynical today...


Privatization, Socialization. (5)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 13 years ago | (#137315)

Last time the California power crisis came up here, someone quoted an editorial that hit the nail right on the head. Unfortunately I don't remember who wrote the editorial, but I remember well what it said:
Our society is socializing risk and privatizing profit.
This is just another example of the same lamentable phenomenon, and it's a predictable trend in a "democracy" where legislators are bought and paid for by lobbyists.


Slash Leans Left Yet Again! (1)

Figec (20690) | more than 13 years ago | (#137316)

I have worked on the staff of a research institute associated with two NJ universities. I was involved in many different grant funded research projects and some of those were funded by private corporations (most of the research centered around computational modeling or GIS related work). I didn't do any of the research; I just assisted those that did.

I can say, unequivocally, I was never a witness to any skewing of results of research to fit the agenda of a private entity that funded research.

No PI would want to be stained as such, as this would destroy their reputation in the eyes of their peers! Who would hire a researcher that fudged their results? How could a PhD expect to earn a living if noone will work with or hire them? Most of these people don't make a whole lot of money to begin with! Their reputation is their number one marketable skill!

I will say, that I am vaguely aware that when results were found contrary to the agenda of certain GOVERNMENT entities, that PI's would regret having to present their findings knowing it might have an impact on future grants (though still I don't know of anyone ever forging their work to change results).

Of course there are researchers who purposely produce false results, and these researchers are paid with both private and tax dollars; there are jerks like this in every walk of life. But I highly doubt that research done for for profit entities is of any less value than research done for government dollars. My experience tells me so.

Why is it that \. often posts anti-corporate pieces? How often do you see a \. story heralding free enterprise and for profit work? I know that most of the \. readers are young, so could it be that government schools are teaching our kids to distrust private business? Or are those attracted to \. are just generally leftists? I don't know but I refuse to let stories like these go by without a balanced opinion.

The Bayh-Dole Act (1)

Misha (21355) | more than 13 years ago | (#137317)

The link about the Bayh-Dole Act actually doesn't say anything about patenting by businesses. It says that "the university is expected to give licensing" not patents.

university vs. corporate research experience (3)

Misha (21355) | more than 13 years ago | (#137318)

i happen to work in corporate research at a big computer company, and while i am still in school, it is certainly NOT true that corporations can ][w]easily patent university research in exchange for funding.

academic research/work belongs to the students and the university, no matter who pays for it. at some universities student rights come first, at others vice versa. But a third party always comes last.

When I worked on a project at school (Cornell) which was supposed to be used by my current employer, they first had to modify our work agreement and run it by their lawyers twice or thrice, before finally seeing that the university copyrights were preserved. the project was funded by both university and corporate sides, btw.

in short, it depends on the university whether the fruits of academic labor will be given up for a few million funding. that much I know. but you can count on both interested parties will try to tear a larger piece of ownership for themselves, so the article, IMHO, is just taking a singular case where Berkeley decided to waste its own funding and forfeit a few of their own patents.

Re:Don't corporations pay taxes too? (3)

Penrif (33473) | more than 13 years ago | (#137320)

Surely they have a right to see a return on their investment?

Sure, they typically get to have some researchers look into a topic they want them to look into. That's all fine and good. They paid some people to think about something. Great. Peachy.

Where we get into trouble is when companys try to pay people to think about a topic in a certain way. Like say you're a researcher and some company pays you to evaluate product X for them. Product X happens to suck, so your evaluation comes out bad. Has the company seen a return on their investment? Probably not. Is that the researcher's fault? Absolutly not, they got what they paid for -- someone to evaluate their product. Just because I may invest in some stock doesn't mean I have a right to a return on it, it could lose all value. But, I got what I paid for, right?

Re:At my University (2)

prizog (42097) | more than 13 years ago | (#137324)

"If the patents were not in place, the discoveries would not lead to aggressive products in the market, since no one will fund a company based on public domain IP."

False. Many companies make generic drugs based on formerly patented drugs. They even make money that way.

Re:Don't corporations pay taxes too? (5)

pq (42856) | more than 13 years ago | (#137326)

If Corporation X payes college Y to do research in Z, not only does the college have more funds to spend, the researchers get to do interesting work.

Bingo: you've nailed the problem exactly. The stuff the researchers get to do is selected by the company. Do you think Monsanto is going to select a project demonstrating the dangers of genetically engineered crops? Do you thing Pfizer is going to finance a study to prove that Americans are over-medicated? When you control the questions that can be asked, you've undermined the very basic idea of unfettered inquiry.

Universities Are Research Empires (3)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 13 years ago | (#137327)

I studied at a well-known eastern U. What the heck, let's name names, Georgia Tech. It's a corporate research empire. Most profs are spending their time writing proposals and trolling for grants from industry and gov't. The profs are paid on a percentage of the grants they pull in. After a coupla years, that is their only income. And the undergrads are always grumbling about not getting good prof time. For the profs that are good at it (i.e., the entrepeneural types), it's a nice cash cow.

Re:Don't corporations pay taxes too? (1)

underwhelm (53409) | more than 13 years ago | (#137337)

Surely they have a right to see a return on their investment?

I don't remember seeing that in the declaration of independence, so no.

I just invested several hundred dollars in recording equipment, do I have a right to a return on my investment? No.

There is no right to profit. There may be a kernel of truth in what you say, somewhere, but the way you say it ruins your argument.

Re:I don't understand (1)

xphase (56482) | more than 13 years ago | (#137338)

The U.S. is primarily a democracy

The US is a Constitutional Republic, which means that we elect others to make decisions for us within the boundaries of the Constitution. A democracy is where every individual would vote on every issue. There would be not congress if this was a democracy.


Re:I don't understand (1)

xphase (56482) | more than 13 years ago | (#137339)

Well, you got me, I guess you're right, I mean 2 out of 5 is enough to make that definition true. Of course points 3 through 5 are not true in the US, but that's not really my point.

The concept of democracy was developed by the Ancient greeks, Plato, Aristotle, and the like, and their definition is each person has a vote. This definition has been the actual definition of democracy since then, including when the US was formed, well, the actual meaning was that every person could vote, provided that you were white, owned land, weren't a women, and weren't crazy. A pure democracy was considered by the founders of the US, as were many other types of government. They choose a constitutional republic, and every US History/Politics/etc. course I've taken in school(elementary, middle, high school, and University) has identified the US government as a a Constitutional Republic.

So pardon me if I don't agree with, because as we all know books/dictionaries/the internet/all other published works are right 100% of the time.


Re:I don't understand (1)

meepzorb (61992) | more than 13 years ago | (#137340)

We dont have federal referenda in the US. At the federal level it's a pure republic, not a democracy. Little town meetings dont usually concern themselves with the side effects of corporate power abuse (at least not directly).

The East India Company was hardly a shining example of benevolent corporate power: The British, ever creative, basically formed the organization to implement their conquest of India in the 1600s: Very mercantilist actually.

The EIC is not generally regarded as having led to any scientific progress, it was a trade and plunder operation, so I'm not sure why you mention it here.


Re:I don't understand (5)

meepzorb (61992) | more than 13 years ago | (#137341)

Well (1) The U.S isnt a democracy, it's a Republic and (2) the modern limited-liability corporation as legal construct didnt exist until the mid-1800s: The Founders were mercantilists who tended to be suspicious of any accumlation of power, public or private.

Without ARPAnet (gov't funded research), TCP/IP (gov't funded research), small cheap microprocessors (gov't funded research), or the web, for that matter (Berners-Lee was on a project paid for by supercollider funds... surprise surprise, gov't funded research) there'd be no Slashdot, either.

Corporations are useful constructs for production and the accumulation of wealth. Once they leave that realm and begin interfering with culture, politics, technology and science, they have overstepped their bounds and are an obstacle to progress.

I may need to eat, but I refuse to lick the hand that feeds.


Re:this article isn't well-balanced (1)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 13 years ago | (#137345)

They could point out that research is expensive, that government doesn't fund it all, and that most individuals sure aren't rushing to plug up the gap. And if one expects research funding from companies, it's only fair that they get something for their investment.

Re:Question... (1)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 13 years ago | (#137346)

True. There are plenty of products in the "health supplement" market which, since they're not marketed as drugs and don't come under FDA drug rules, have likely never been rigorously tested at all -- and they will sell. It helps that there are people to whom "natural / organic" automatically means "good for you", and are willing to pay money for anything unconventional...

Hell. At one point, bleeding people in order to rebalance the four humours was an extremely common treatment for many disorders. Not that it was that reliable, but it goes to show that products and services clearly don't always need to be effective to sell.

Re:Don't corporations pay taxes too? (1)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 13 years ago | (#137347)

In 1997 (looking in a 2000 NYT Almanac, which doesn't have more recent no.), they paid 12.3% of all federal income taxes, versus 48.0% for individuals (a large chunk of the remainder, 35.4%, consisted of employment taxes). 12.3% is definitely nontrivial.

And, FWIW, there are limits in honorarium size to a sitting politician, as well as to contributions to a campaign of a specific candidate, or in spending that is coordinated with a specific campaign.

Re:Don't corporations pay taxes too? (2)

Jace of Fuse! (72042) | more than 13 years ago | (#137349)

Not only do corporations pay taxes, but they also make major contributions to the institutes doing the research.

Right, but let's say Corporation Z pays University Y a sum of money equal to X to do research R for T length of time. When R is D at cost of X plus additional tax money, then why should Z have exclusive rights to R? U C what I mean?

"Everything you know is wrong. (And stupid.)"

Re:I don't understand (2)

Durinia (72612) | more than 13 years ago | (#137350)

I have to agree with you. A lot of people benefit from this. Besides, without the Bayh-Dole Act, how would any of this government-funded research (still 92%) get put to market? The Government would own all the IP.

The real benefit of this act is that it gives the researchers the ability to make some money off of their own ideas. Better them then some suit who has no clue whats going on, right? The professor I work for (I'm a graduate student) has made a fair hunk of cash off of a research project that he did as a graduate student. I've seen how much work he put into it, and along with how much it has helped out the research community, he more than deserves it.

There are several other professors in our department that have taken their ideas to the corporate world as well, most of them successfully. One of them (ArborNetworks [] ) was recenty featured here.

The problem is not with the Bayh-Dole act, but with the ridiculous deals like the one at Berkeley mentioned in the article. They're seriously abusing the system. The goal of the act was to allow businesses to emerge out of the research community. The goal is not to have the researchers bought and directed by a company, when they don't even know what's going to come out the other end of the research!

If you want research lackeys to do what you want and to give up all their IP rights to you, hire your own.

Re:I saw this coming (2)

Durinia (72612) | more than 13 years ago | (#137351)

1) It's called the NSF. A very very big general fund. (The article says that 92% of research is still gov't funded...) You're only supposed to use it on research needs, either materials, or for paying grad students to help you out (but not professors)
2) They don't do royalties. Instead, your donation back to them is this: They get rights to use the technology you developed for free and forever.

The royalties idea is an interesting one - research perpetuating research. Unfortunately, because of the huge scope they deal with, *enforcement* of the royalties would cost more than you'd make because of legal fees I think...

Re:Slash Leans Left Yet Again! (2)

Durinia (72612) | more than 13 years ago | (#137352)

I don't know about you, but I'm reading /. right now, not \. (backslashdot?)

And, while I'm at it - I agree. There are jerks who ruin it for others, but the whole peer review of work thing makes forged results a really dangerous career move.

Good luck!!! (1)

bigweenie (73456) | more than 13 years ago | (#137354)

"They're like bullies in a sandbox who take away their toys when you don't agree with them," Dr. Kahn told The Chronicle of Higher Education.

I am always disgusted by how the media will defend the 1st amendment to defend their right to publish anything but are weak weenies when it comes to defending individuals to exercise their 1st amendment rights. Big money, free enterprise and survival of the fittest makes the individual have less rights than the corporation. Now universities are feeling the pinch, as they are second class citizens too when compared to corporate entities. The corporations will flex the liberal rules of academic research laboratories to circumvent some of the liability and legal entanglements of doing these same experiments in their own labs, they will defend these liberal institutions to the hilt, but only for their right to access them - they leave everyone one else to fend for themselves.

The general line of reasoning is that the universities win by gaining access to corporate dollar$ and the corporations win by gaining access to highly trained research technicians and very lenient or nonexistent research restrictions. Both are supposed to benefit, however, academic institutions need to have the VETO power over decisions that result in a obvious change in a research facility from "academic" to "r&d". The rules need to be amended so that the academic institution remains preeminent in all contractual agreements.

Sig. Are you dumber than you look?

Re:Old story (1)

Hittman (81760) | more than 13 years ago | (#137357)

...GE's Corporate R&D center is more of a engineer support center than an R&D center now

I did contract work at GE's CR&D from 1997-1999. There are some engineers there, but most of the work is pure R&D, conducted by some of the best scientists in the world. GE literally scouts the globe for them; it wasn't uncommon to hear six researchers having a conversation in six distinct accents. CR&D registers 800-900 patents per year, year after year. They have one large department that does nothing but handle the patents.

Our company provided computer support, and researcher's natural curiosity meant they screwed up their PCs a lot, in new and amazing ways. Few things were more frightening then hearing one of them say "Hey, I just discovered Regedit!"

They liked to look over your shoulder to see what you were doing, and when that got annoying I'd just ask "What do you do in this lab?" I learned a lot about Lexan and aircraft engines and MRIs and polymers and rapid prototyping and refrigerators and washing machines and avionics and light bulbs and chip fabrication and a thousand other things that had nothing to do with my job.

In the main reception area of the plant there was a large framed display that featured head shots of their top researchers, in order of the number of patents they had received. There were a couple with more than 150, quite a few with more than 100, even more with more than 50 and then lots with 25 or more. While most folks would be quite impressed with anyone who had ten or fifteen or twenty patents, that wasn't enough to even get noticed there.

I can't speak for anyone else's R&D, but GE's is still alive and well, and cranking out new inventions and improvement to old ones on a regular basis.

Check out The Hittman Chronicle []

Re:At my University (2)

blakestah (91866) | more than 13 years ago | (#137359)

But if you were required to sign an EULA like agreement which gave your employer or university full patent and intellectual property rights then your screwed. Basically it belongs to them and they can patent it. Many universities do not use the NIH policy because its too liberal in the eye's of corporations.

First of all, only inventors can patent something. A university is a non-entity when it comes to getting patents granted. Universities routinely control the licensing of a patent. They almost always give a percentage of the royalties to the inventor, or else there would be no patents filed. Patenting something takes time and effort, and if an academic scientist is not paid, he will not patent. He establishes his livelihood through publications, not patents. Patents are like icing on the cake - good if you can get it, but you keep your day job either way.

At corporations it is different. The corporation creates a job agreement in which generation of patents is part of the scientist's job, and it is expected the scientist will not be paid extra for it. Still, most reasonable corporations reward in the form of bonuses and promotions those scientists that create worthy patents. They do this because they want to create incentive. In fact, the entire patent system is created on the premise of incentive to the inventor.

In a university I bet the dean will say sign this agreement that is for ABC corporation and not under the NIH and forfit all rights or you wont get any credits and wont graduate. If your were in that situation which option would you choose?

This does not EVER happen. This sort of conflict of interest is the stuff by which deans are ejected from academia. Grants at academic institutions are simply not allowed with patent strings attached. If they were, the scientist would effectively be an employee of the granting agency. And believe you me, academic institutions have a substantial financial incentive to retain their own employees.

Re:At my University (3)

blakestah (91866) | more than 13 years ago | (#137362)

"If the patents were not in place, the discoveries would not lead to aggressive products in the market, since no one will fund a company based on public domain IP."

False. Many companies make generic drugs based on formerly patented drugs. They even make money that way.

Right. Take prozac as an example. Its patent protection has expired. It has made about a zillion dollars for its company (Pfizer, I think). Knockoffs will come next year, and make a few million.

However, to support my argument, if prozac had never been patented, it would hardly be used now. And no one would be making much money off it. Pfizer marketed the heck out of it to give it the prominent place in the market it has now. And if it were not for that, generic knockoffs would be nearly worthless too.

So, yes, there is some place for public domain products. But if initial intellectual property is not patented, corporations will not aggressively push the products into the marketplace.

Re:At my University (5)

blakestah (91866) | more than 13 years ago | (#137363)

Once research is published, it establishes prior art. Only the authors may apply for patent coverage, and they must apply within a year. It is often the case that a head scientist will prefer to submit the patent first. Other scientists on the project will be hurt by such a maneuver. Without it, there will be a compromise in the establishment of intellectual property. This intellectual property will make money for the university and for the inventors.

For other issues, there are NEVER patent strings attached to research dollars. If a company funds research that is done at a university, the university will control the patent licensing. Often the university feels it is in their best interests to license exclusively to the corporation that funded the research, but the university chooses to do this because it will generate the most revenue. And patent licensing from universities is all about making money.

It is quite a natural act that public university research leads to discovery that is patentable, even if not intended. If the patents were not in place, the discoveries would not lead to aggressive products in the market, since no one will fund a company based on public domain IP. So, universities choose to allow patentable research, and they profit from it substantially.

Even public grants allow this to occur. NIH has a policy that allows any grant to create patents, provided that the patent application is disclosed to the granting agency. As long as that step is fulfilled, the patent is invented by the researcher, and its licensing is controlled by the university.

It is in the scientists best interests to patent his discoveries. Although he can make money from that, he cannot control how the patent is used. In this way the scientist is dissociated from the revenue generation portion of the patent process. The royalty checks come in, and it is kinda like being paid for something you did a long time ago and rarely think about anymore.

And the winner is.... (2)

BierGuzzl (92635) | more than 13 years ago | (#137364)

...The government! The government has found a way to provide corporate welfare with the corporations taking the brunt of the bad press involved. Also, with this extra boost in funding for universities, the government saves itself from having to invest in more research/education.

Sad (4)

DaveWood (101146) | more than 13 years ago | (#137366)

OK - research done with public money can result in patents for private corporations? You've got to be kidding me.

Who signed that one into law?

Don't tell me for a minute the corporations "deserve" it or are "entitled" to it. I even saw a comment by someone who said that because corporations "pay taxes" and "contribute" to public universities, they "deserve" to patent public intellectual work.

What a crock. Taxes buy you a lot, but they do not buy you the right to plop your private toll plaza on the brooklyn bridge. Or at least they didn't used to. Contributions to the institutions of higher education are philanthropy - or at least that's invariably what these large corporations' tax accountants tell us.

Patents are very delicate instrument for encouraging research and thought. They have been greviously abused in the past 50 years - beneficiaries of their protection would of course love to skew their protections much farther towards themselves than was originally intended, and they have succeeded smashingly, so that patents are as often a threat to innovation and scientific development as not.

I say as an executive at a corporation and a scientist, there is absolutely no reason why public research should result in private patents. Public research, _because it results in the free exchange of ideas and results_ is the heart and soul of scientific endeavor. When it doesn't, there is no point in maintaining the farce of calling it public.

You will of course be frightened by people who say stopping this practice will reduce research and hinder science, but this is, of course, bullshit. Good science happened before it, and will happen after it ends. Allowing patents to shut off whole lines of inquiry for the paltry benefit of a corporation's profits is the real, vast danger looming opposite that paper monster.

Re:Don't corporations pay taxes too? (1)

Master Bait (115103) | more than 13 years ago | (#137371)

Not only do corporations pay taxes

Hello? What country are you talking about? They don't pay diddly in the US! They pay more to bribe the politicians with campaign contributions and honorariums than they do in taxes.


We have to do with this... (1)

koh (124962) | more than 13 years ago | (#137377)

Like someone else previously said on this article, corporation is part of democracy. Ouch. He's probably right, but we shouldn't forget that corporations are currently (and for a few years) unable to manage, filter or even consider the huge amount of information transiting via the internet.

And how do we know that corporation tweak research results ? Because research on a particular topic is not unique, i.e., someone, somewhere, is trying to accomplish the same thing as you, whatever that thing is (except, maybe, for archiving 100% of the slashdot poll votes on your local harddrive, or knowing by heart all fortunes found on a slackware 7.1 [] linux system). Now that the internet nearly covers the whole Known Universe, we have a way to excange info about what we want, including scientific research ; and corporations, because they're a part of democracy, are to follow democracy rules and not to bother us.

Of course, this idealistic point of view can't stand against reality. Fortunately, we still have paranoid solutions, such as Freenet [] or Gnutella [] ...

The whole point of this post is this : fight, don't cry. Fight also with your brains, not only with your strength, and remember we've still to see a corporate manager "managing" to install a *NIX server... All their base are belong to us (sorry, couldn't resist :] )

At my University (3)

vex24 (126288) | more than 13 years ago | (#137378)

At my University it seems to be completely true. I know several graduate students who struggle to make deadlines set by their corporate sponsors (not their advisors!) and have trouble getting funded without essentially being paid for results by corporations. Add to that the fact that most of this research is "delayed" in being released to the public until the company can apply for patents, and it makes you wonder how "public" our public universities really are...

Naive? Yeah, I'd say so (2)

n9fzx (128488) | more than 13 years ago | (#137381)

Having done my graduate work at a major research university, I'd have to say that such universities are really research institutes that run a school "on the side". If you're a grad student, that's great, because you'll wind up learning far more from your projects than you will in the classroom. But, you will be faced with time pressures to complete projects, no matter who the patron is -- government funded research also has deadlines, checkpoints, and progress reports to write.
As to intellectual property, whoever pays for the research should reap the rewards. We the People pay for government-funded research, which is why the public owns the intellectual property for those projects. But, when a for-profit company is the patron, you'd better believe that they have every right to the ideas, work product, and patents that come out of it.
In recent years, corporate funding has been used to supplant declining technology research funding from the federal government (oh yes, thank you Al Gore for axing the research budget). Thus the patent issue has arisen, mostly in engineering research. Frankly, if you don't like patents, don't take the research money. But then you can most likely forget about studying engineering. Go study poetry instead, which is (of course) funded by university indirect fees on research...

They're paying for it! (2)

Stott (132670) | more than 13 years ago | (#137382)

How is it wrong if Novartis is paying them $25 million over 5 years. Sounds like the University made a deal with $$$ in their eyes while not consulting the faculty. Bad UC!

this article isn't well-balanced (2)

prisoner (133137) | more than 13 years ago | (#137383)

I wonder what the other side has to say about it? It sure doesn't seem very defensible. I'm pretty suprised about the Berkeley deal. I've always thought of that bunch as pretty independent and above such foolishness. Seems like a simple money-grab. disapointing to say the least.

nothing new (1)

theirpuppet (133526) | more than 13 years ago | (#137384)

This is nothing new. Anyone familiar with Noam Chomsky, Russell Mokhiber, Robert Weissman, Ralph Nader, or any other social advocate who has done any amount of research is well aware of this issue.

It's also common sense, Universities use their students, fellows, and professors to do research. Where do the products of this research go? Pharmacutical companies, High Technology companies, Military/Industrial companies... They sponsor research, for pennies on the dollar at best, and then make a few hundred million or so as they use propriatary licenses and monopolize the 'intellectual property'.

Anyone ever seen student theses on sale? Do you think that a University with such complete disregard for the students will have any problems being owned by corporations? Think of it, a few million from major corporations, and all they have to do is keep those corporations making billions.

It's a corporate dominated world. Good things only happen incidentally.

Governments don't care about the environment, human rights, or anything like that. They are lobbied by corporations, while the people don't bother to vote or hold their representatives accountable. But corporations will, so they get their way. Again, common sense.

Re:Yes, this is offtopic (2)

ellem (147712) | more than 13 years ago | (#137386)

You can't hear me but I am clapping right now.

Re:Don't corporations pay taxes too? (2)

bryanp (160522) | more than 13 years ago | (#137387)

A right to a return on their investment? Yes.

A right to sponsor research and then try to silence the researchers when the results say something they don't like? No.

The problem comes when you start mixing public & private funds along with public and private interests. If I, BigRichCo, decide to fund research at a private institution with my private dollars, then yes, I can expect a certain degree of control over the results. However, if I then start funding research at a public institution / university with private dollars, that's where a conflict of interest comes in.

Research done at a public institution should be publicly held and publicly available, no strings attached. If you don't like it, start a private research lab.

Re:Don't corporations pay taxes too? (1)

El_Che (161286) | more than 13 years ago | (#137388)

Why try hard when, the better you do improving your products, leading to more profits, they're taken by a government lead by politicians riding to power blathering nonsense to "the people" about how evil you are?

Because you can still make more money by trying harder. More is more (even if it is less more than CEOs might like).

Some 'Facts': 1. IIRC, the corps paid 'their fair share' (whatever) back in the 1950s. Wasn't that the USofA's Golden Age (economically & hegemonically speaking)? 2. Aren't regulated electric utilities (regulations = profit ceilings) nevertheless healthy & profitable, still better than free market utilities at providing juice, and the more generous funders of the industry's R&D institution (the Electric Power Research Institute, EPRI) [] ?


Your kidding, right? (4)

PopeAlien (164869) | more than 13 years ago | (#137389)

Would you be interested in buying some of my Miracle-Oil? It increases sex-appeal by 300 percent, increases cash-flow by 270 percent and makes your teeth shiny white.

This has all been proven by our many scientific lab-tests, and you can benefit from this research for only $19.95 a bottle.

Note: ClemCo's rigorous commitment to quality and value has resulted in the jealous former researchers who claim that this product is ineffective. This is not true, and to prove it we are bringing legal action against these ingrates. We stand by our record, and are proud of our achievements. We will be judged only by God Almighty, and not government regulatory agencies, disgruntled employees or consumer advocate groups.

Re:Old story (2)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 13 years ago | (#137391)

One UK university recently took lots of cash from a tobacco company. Amusingly a student who got a major prize from that department publicly turned it down at the prize giving.

Which is plain silly.

what the student should have done was donate the money to the arch foe of the tobacco company. Say a public action group, or something.

How many people here would take a grant from Microsoft, and donate it to the EFF, or what ever?

What a minute ...

never mind ...

Check out the Vinny the Vampire [] comic strip

Re:Independant Research? (1)

SigmoidCurve (188795) | more than 13 years ago | (#137392)

So long as they aren't releasing false results to boost the price of the stock (happens from time to time), that's fine with me.

What if they're releasing false results that cause the death of 10 people? 100? 1000? All to protect the interests of the research sponsors?

Researchers are human, yes, but this does not excuse misrepresenting or burying data. It is precisely because scientists are people too that the code of science is so adamant in its insistence that research be independent. It is like the Hippocratic Oath in medicine: no, I'm not going to save everybody, but I'm going to try. Likewise, no we can't all be objective in our research, but dammit, we should try. And when abuses like this are brought to light, they should be punished.


Re:Don't corporations pay taxes too? (1)

SigmoidCurve (188795) | more than 13 years ago | (#137393)

If Corporation X payes college Y to do research in Z, not only does the college have more funds to spend, the researchers (grad students) get to do interesting work.

This is a double-edged sword: is it any guarantee that the work will be interesting? What if Corporation X wants boring work? If you're a grad student at a university department and the only option for funding is to do the work that Corporation X wants you to do, you have no choice.

Allowing third-parties like this to influence the choices of what research will and will not be done is dangerous!


Question... (2)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 13 years ago | (#137394)

How can you reap profits AND corrupt research? I mean, if you get some students to develop something for you, if their research is bogus, then the product's not going to work, is it?

Or are corporations actually going so far as to force universities to stifle their discoveries that would revolutionize an industry and allow real innovation to take place, thereby obsoleting the considerable investment made in older, inferior technologies?

Re:At my University (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 13 years ago | (#137399)

But if you were required to sign an EULA like agreement which gave your employer or university full patent and intellectual property rights then your screwed. Basically it belongs to them and they can patent it. Many universities do not use the NIH policy because its too liberal in the eye's of corporations.

Most scientist at major drug and chemical companies agree to have the corporation cliam all their work as theirs or they wont hire them. Same is true for programmers working for major software companies. IBM is so strict that you must agree that even software wrote at home on your own time and your machine is their property.

In a university I bet the dean will say sign this agreement that is for ABC corporation and not under the NIH and forfit all rights or you wont get any credits and wont graduate. If your were in that situation which option would you choose?

I saw this coming (3)

Deanasc (201050) | more than 13 years ago | (#137400)

I paid for all my research out of my own pocket. Fortunatly I'm an undergrad and my research was something I could do on my own. The only thing the college had to buy for me was a couple tanks of Hydrogen and Helium for the Gas Chromatography machine. Had I accepted corporate funds from an oil company for my research I'm positive they would not have approved of my conclusions. Had I accepted private funds from Greenpeace or MassPIRG then my conclusions although support their general philosophy would have been suspect.

What we need is a general fund for researchers to draw from with only one limitation on how the funds are spent with the benefits to go directly back into the fund. IE royalties on cool technologies which can be made into products by the man should go back into the fund. After a few years I predict the fund could support itself and turn a profit for all Americans to share.

That one limitation would be for spending the funds on research only. Not on salaries or university overhead but on materials and equipment to further science.

Just my opinion.

Re:Where's Paul Newman when you an advisor? (3)

Deanasc (201050) | more than 13 years ago | (#137401)

You said "That said, my greatest shock at seeing how real science is done was the dependence on tin foil. It's unreal. You rap your device in tin foil and you can get an order of magnitude improvement."

Yes that's true. It's called a Farraday Cage. It's the first thing they teach you in Instrumental Analysis. Works wonders. Nothing ruins sensativity in your equipment like having an elevator in your building. The cage just reflects some of that stray energy from the giant dynamo pulling the lift.

Now the fact that we all know about Farraday Cages in science makes it prior art for shielding peoples heads by wraping their cell phones in tinfoil. (or their heads in tinfoil if they're from California.)

The thing is Farraday gave this research away and the world is a better place for it. If he had a NDA with Nokia or Motorola we'd all be paying extra for the tinfoil liscence at Safeway.

Re:I saw this coming (3)

Deanasc (201050) | more than 13 years ago | (#137402)

That's what I mean. Something like the NSF that does make a profit and is self funding after a point. The NSF is afterall drawn from our taxes every year. There's no reason that it couldn't be self funding. Corporations also have to keep an eye on enforcement of royalties. They seem to be able to keep a lid on things.

NSF is good but could be better.

Re:Question... (1)

Phillip2 (203612) | more than 13 years ago | (#137404)

"How can you reap profits AND corrupt research? "

Its not necessarily so hard. There have been plenty of examples of fraud. It takes quite a while to detect in some cases. So for instance if you produced research relating to obesity, you would could probably have the venture capital, and a new house before anyone found that the research was not repeatable. Okay so when they did the company would take a loss, but its quite hard to proof fraud as opposed to just crap results.


Re:Don't corporations pay taxes too? (1)

Phillip2 (203612) | more than 13 years ago | (#137405)

"Surely they have a right to see a return on their investment?"

It depends on what you think is the reasons for the existance of the universities. If you think that part of the purpose is to provide an independant view, which can challenge existing ideas then loosing all of this independance is not necessarily a good thing.

If on the other hand you think Universities are there to just produce new technology, then its not so bad.

Personally I think universities are there for both. The new technologies bring up new issues, and the new issues bring new questions. The universities help to bring these issues to a wider audience. How would we have had any debate about the impact of the human genome project if it had taken place behind close doors?


Old story (5)

Phillip2 (203612) | more than 13 years ago | (#137408)

Hmmm. This is quite an old story. There were a series of letters about it in nature six months ago.

There are plenty of other examples. One UK university recently took lots of cash from a tobacco company. Amusingly a student who got a major prize from that department publicly turned it down at the prize giving.

As for most of us who have seen the number of NDA's increasing, the patent clauses entering into out contracts, and the number of letters from lawyers suggesting that we talk to them before we talk to our colleagues its definately no surprise. Its not much good for science either, but he who pays the piper....


Re:I don't understand (1)

Wildfire Darkstar (208356) | more than 13 years ago | (#137412)

How state and local governments manage themselves is, ultimately, not under the jurisdiction of the federal government. The United States is a republic. It has always been concieved of as a republic. In a true democracy, all decisions are made by the people themselves. The best we've managed here is to hold frequent elections to appoint people to make our decisions for us. Yes, referendums exist, but pretty much only on the state and local level.

The fact that local governments don't model their systems the same way as the national government doesn't make the U.S. a democracy. It may make your town a democracy (and not ever local government works this way, either, particularly in larger urban and suburban areas), however.

And the East India Company is not, by any means, "thousands of years" old. And, though technically a corporation, it is not exactly equatable to, say, Microsoft. It operated under relatively close scrutiny of the government, ultimately folded when said government withdrew its charter, and, for all intents and purposes, acted simply as a mercantilist arm of the state. There's a few federally-run corporations around today that are similar, though they down operate anywhere near the same level.

People forget that the United States's economy was not originally envisioned as capitalist. Adam Smith was only just making his debut at the time of the Revolutionary War, and most of the framers of the Constitution were far more interested in the then-dominant mercantile system of Europe, wherein the government ultimately tolerated private industry not because it spurred competition or developed a healthy market, but because it allowed the state to further its own interests without overextending itself. Both capitalism and socialism ultimately rushed into fill the void that was left when mercantilism disintegrated as an economic system. In a sense, both have strong roots in the mercantile system, but neither is recognizably the same system.

My point? Although modern, capitalist corporations share the same terminology with premodern mercantile corporations, they're not really the same thing.

Re:And the problem with privately-funded research (2)

Wildfire Darkstar (208356) | more than 13 years ago | (#137414)

Corporations aren't entirely evil, you know. Sometimes, the people involved in them actually want to provide good products and services that help others while helping themselves. That's not wrong, is it?
Of course. And a good number of the radicals responsible for the French Revolution just wanted to topple a absolutist, abusive monarchy. The fact that they then ushered in one of the most bloody periods in European history doesn't mean their intentions weren't good.

I don't doubt that there are corporations who want to do good out there. I also don't doubt that a fair number of them actually do. And unlike a number of my fellow leftist / socialists, I take a much more traditionalist approach to my creed, in that I view capitalism and corporatism as neccessary, ultimately for the reasons you state: it builds a strong industrial / informational infrastructure that non-market based systems can't.

However, the fact remains that one bad egg tends to spoil the batter. Corporations have, and corporations will, continue to abuse their power, and that's something I cannot, in good conscience, endorse. Like any large concentration of power, corporations are given to corruption. And the market has been shown to be sluggish, at best, in responding to social pressure, and outright unconcerned with anything other than the majority (often at the expense of the minority). Ultimately, I have more faith in a democratic governmental system than a free market system in addressing problems, be they evil or just mistakes. I'd rather have a democratic government addressing my needs and concerns than the whim of the market.

Obviously, since I do live in America, and recognize that most people don't agree with me. But hey, what are you going do? I'll just be sitting here, agitating as best I can, until I can make everyone agree with me. Or until Bill Gates wills me his entire fortune. Either one, really. ::grin::

Corporations are a necessary evil (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 13 years ago | (#137415)

Corproations are a necessary evil--just like money, free will, loss of free will, social welfare, and the stock market. In an ideal world, we'd all be perfect people who work together for a common good, and harness our base instincts of self-preservation and social-personal improvement into something really cool. Of course, no one's perfect, and some people are quite far from even being mediocre...

That said, not everyone in today's society is related to someone who's higher up on the scale. My mother-in-law technically owns a "business"... but it's a sole proprietorship cleaning business with no other employees--or do you count an Amway distributorship as a "business?" Her family never made a lot of money--both her parents are still working low-paying jobs despite raising three children--and while she's seen friends who are comparatively rich, none of them would help her family fiscally the way they would a relation.

In any case, our society still works via corporations because no one has concieved and then implemented a better system--not because corporations are, of themselves, necessary to our society. In fact, they are rather anti-democratic in that they give certain citizens (or non-citizens, for multinationals) an extra vote simply because they're wealthy.

Corporations recieve such bad press because, unlike the government and its various (possibly ineffecitve) agencies, their immediate goal is enriching their stockholders--not serving the public good. This means that they are legally driven to make deicisions that can be bad for everyone else, so far as they turn a profit.

The only checks on this behavior are the twin courts of public opinion and government regulation. Unless you prefer to see more of the later, I suggest you not decry those who exercise even a herd-mentality expression of the former.

Re:The Christian Science Monitor? (1)

brlewis (214632) | more than 13 years ago | (#137417)

Or, at least if they are biased, their bias is usually orthogonal to the issues being covered.

Corporations or Government? (1)

BlueJay465 (216717) | more than 13 years ago | (#137419)

This is not news. Private companies fund research for universities as often as governments do as well. Do research projects that the government funds get treated the same way in the end as corporate-funded research? Of course they do. Corps/Govts claim just as many rights to patent materials.

Money is money, if the end result of corporate/government funded research is making society better in one way or another, I am all for it. By the same token, I can see where this can be a bad thing since a corp/gov can manipulate the end results to serve their own needs (cannabis research for example)

Will It Ever Stop? (2)

Sandlund (226344) | more than 13 years ago | (#137420)

Universities fatten up so much on these deals that I doubt they'll never agree to move away from the slop pit. The schools get all kinds of goodies (think of all those shiny new labs that they like to show parents).

Professors get their egos stroked by working with these firms, in addition to improving their post-academic job prospects. They gladly participate in this research because it will win praise from the university president. ("Atta boy, Bob!")

After they've bitten the apple, is there any going back?

some good could come of this too... (1)

lyapunov (241045) | more than 13 years ago | (#137422)

While there certainly are dangers that discussed in the article. There also exists good possibilities as well.

Consider all of the arguments and debates that have occured over what some people thing as unethical science, e.g. cloning and the recently resurfaced drama of stem cell research. There was a federal ban of funding into stem cell research during the Reagan/Bush years, it was lifted under Clinton (although he did impose a ban on federal funds being used for cloning), and the issue of federal funding for stem cell has reared its ugly head now the Bush jr. is in office.

These lines of research are the most promising ideas to come along in years and we now have the technology to make head way on them. If there is corporate sponsorship given to universities to conduct this research that is fine by me even though it may be proprietary. I feel that the future results of this work are too important not to be doing something about it because the politicians do not have enough spines or sense to get these projects funding via federal sources. As the article points out, the majority of the funding is from federal sources, and if those channels are blocked I am glad that the people that can actually do the research can get the money for corperate sponsorship.

I realize that there will be some bad things that come out of private companies sponsoring university funded research, and the article does a fine job of pointing those out, but I consider this to be a case of marginal cost. The potential progress far outways the damage that could be done.

On another note, I am dumbfounded how people can oppose the research of cloning and stem cells. How can a path of ignorance be better than the path of enlightenment.

Re:Don't corporations pay taxes too? (1)

stealie72 (246899) | more than 13 years ago | (#137424)

No, most corporations don't pay jack in taxes. Ever heard of Delaware? Corporate Welfare? Multinationals hididng out in third world countries?

Sure, they may fill out tax forms and send checks to the Department of the Treasury, but they get most of it back somehow or someway.

Re:The Christian Science Monitor? (2)

aethera (248722) | more than 13 years ago | (#137425)

Say what you want about their religion, but ask any shortwave enthusiast and they will tell you that when it comes to strong, unbiased, professional reporting, The Monitor is world-class. Everything I've heard indicates the same for both their print and on-line publications. I've been listening for years and consider CSM to be, if not totally perfect, one of the least biased, best sources of news information in the world.

Where's Paul Newman when you an advisor? (1)

Kibo (256105) | more than 13 years ago | (#137426)

I can say this is mostly true at the university I attended. But I suppose it would depend on the projects themselves. If for instance you had phillip moris sponsering a study to find out how addictive tabacco is relative to green m&m's I might take it with a grain of salt. However, if it's a project sponsored by a medical equipment manufacture trying to build a better ball joint for hip replacements well I'd be somewhat more trusting.

In any case, all research is best viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism. Everyone knows people with doctorates who think the universe should conform to their idea of what it should be, are grossly incompitent, or in some cases espouse the "virtues" of sophistry. If you believe blindly what what others write, I have a Cold Fusion kit for sale, serious offers only please.

Why do companies bother with universities? How else could you get experts in a given field who sub-specialize in extream esotirica to work 70 hours a week for less money than one might make picking fruit, if for money at all? Why do universities bother with companies? Some rake in half a billion a year. That buys a lot of acetate from the chemistry store.

That said, my greatest shock at seeing how real science is done was the dependence on tin foil. It's unreal. You rap your device in tin foil and you can get an order of magnitude improvement. Wonder why the Safeway near your university is always out of reynolds wrap? Grad students and some undergrads hard at work.

Independant Research? (1)

AdamInParadise (257888) | more than 13 years ago | (#137428)

Like if anyone was still doing independant research. If you think of the researcher's world as an utopic perfect world dedicated to Science and ruled by Truth, you're deeply mistaken. Researchers are human, therefore...

So long as they aren't releasing false results to boost the price of the stock (happens from time to time), that's fine with me.

Hello? (2)

Shoten (260439) | more than 13 years ago | (#137430)

Um, these students/researchers aren't somehow brainwashed to prefer work for corporations over standard academic research. There's nothing being put in the water to make this happen. The fact is, corporations throw more money (or other enticements) into this than public forums do. And it's not likely that stopping them from doing so will magically make all sorts of public-domain research start happening again. It is not a zero-sum situation where removing one competitor will make the other competitor more successful somehow. Universities and academic foundations need to realize that they need to COMPETE with private industry if they want researchers to keep their findings in the public domain. I certainly am not going to expect a corporation to just give away the results of things it has driven or funded; that's just not how it works, nor is it how it was ever expected to work. That's the whole point of academic research in the first place.

Note to self: proofread subject line, too (1)

drew_kime (303965) | more than 13 years ago | (#137432)

Nothing to see here, move on.

Please red the article first (5)

drew_kime (303965) | more than 13 years ago | (#137433)

How can you reap profits AND corrupt research? I mean, if you get some students to develop something for you, if their research is bogus, then the product's not going to work, is it?

Well, if you had bothered to read the article you would have seen:

Betty Dong at the University of California, San Francisco, discovered data that led her to question the effectiveness of a medication being used daily by millions of people. But when she went to report it, she was blocked for seven years by the company that paid for the study.

David Kahn, another researcher at the same school, was sued last November for $10 million by the company that sponsored his study, after he published a report that the AIDS drug he was testing was ineffective.

So yes, Universities are being forced to stifle information showing that new products and techhnologies are ineffective, or at least less effective than existing ones. The products don't work, but no one's allowed to say anything about it.

Re:Don't corporations pay taxes too? (1)

Bobo the Space Chimp (304349) | more than 13 years ago | (#137434)

> Corporations don't pay as much of a percentage
> of the US government's total revenue as they
> used to. It's mostly individual taxes now.
> (wonder why your taxes are so high?)

Hiding the tax taking from "the people" by having corporations pay most of it is an accounting gimmick to get high tax rates passed. Ultimately it gets pulled out the ass of every person in this country anyway, so taxing the hell out of corporate profits just makes corporations cut costs elsewhere and actually try to not have profits and not try to be quite as efficient. Why try hard when, the better you do improving your products, leading to more profits, they're taken by a government lead by politicians riding to power blathering nonsense to "the people" about how evil you are?

Re:Don't corporations pay taxes too? (2)

Bobo the Space Chimp (304349) | more than 13 years ago | (#137437)

> Do you think Monsanto is going to select a
> project demonstrating the dangers of genetically
> engineered crops?

No, there are plenty of charlatans screaming into the media mike about that already, trying to get their names in print to eventually become paid talking heads (free appearances, but boy do they help your book deal). Like the FDA and drugs, stopping or vastly slowing progress will cause, by vast delay or complete omission of implementation, many more continued problems than new problems might introduce. Remember, millions of people starving somewhere else is politically preferrable and not directly traceable to actions preventing what might have been whereas a few heart attacks or cancers out of millions here in this country is a massive tragedy that demands action now! Now!

> Do you thing Pfizer is going to finance a study
> to prove that Americans are over-medicated?

I would argue we're undermedicated. I can't get any speed-like weight loss drugs, safe and effective, not because I might get addicted, but because existing addicts might illegally get ahold of them.

Double Standards (1)

pgpckt (312866) | more than 13 years ago | (#137438)

I have to gripe a little about the strong possibility school are violating there own standards in some cases to meet the requirements to recieve funding from corperate sponsors.

Earlier on slashdot, there was an discussion on the question of student having ownership of their own works [] . The conclusion of that discussion was the revelation that in many cases, Universities have put clauses in their handbooks stating that any work done for a class belongs to them, not the student. Why? Well, if the student retained ownership, they would control the product, not the public institutions. Does this seem not to be compatable with this discussion?

Even more personally disturbing to me is this article on [] where a teacher has for 20 years told a lie about his military service. In most school, a student would be expelled for fabrication at this level, yet the university stands behind the teacher. The teacher *volunterily* stopped teaching his current class, but so what? He goes on teaching, even after outright lying. I guess it is ok if a teacher breaks the rules, but students must stay well within the white lines. Whatever.

In relation to this article, public universities, who in many cases are incorperated in state laws, are charged with being part of the public interest. I suppose no one is bothered by universities turning around and refusing to serve that interest by making all research results public knowledge? Wierd. How is it universities and teachers can break the rules they set up for the students? I suppose one's own standards don't apply when one's own fate is conserned.


I don't understand (1)

isa-kuruption (317695) | more than 13 years ago | (#137441)

Why is every corporate entity determined to be "evil"? Do people not understand that the United States and most of the world are defined by the corporation which is a major part of democracy?

Again, it's another post that is anti-corporation and it's getting tiring. Would it be so hard to have posts about something more intelligent than propoganda submitted by leftist /. moderators?

Do people here have jobs? Do you not work for a company? Or are you just a high school kid that gets everything from his daddy... and therefore doesn't understand the concept of making money and being profitable to survive?

Companies don't just take money to make lots of money, but it's the people behind them that want the money. And probably so, you have a friend who either owns his own company or his father owns a company (or maybe just a CEO of a publically held company). In any case, this is the way our society is. Without the corporation, /. wouldn't exist.. it would have fallen under from the "lack of funding and therefore resources" category. /. is only here due to corporate sponsorship paying half-brained individuals to post more rediculous stories about "bad" corporations.

I think you need to flash your brain's firmware.

Re:I don't understand (1)

isa-kuruption (317695) | more than 13 years ago | (#137442)

The U.S. is primarily a democracy however most major issues are done in a republic manner. For instance, your local town may want to put in a new park so they hold a vote amongst the people of your town as to where to put it (this is a democracy). In a republic, officials are elected to make the best decision for the community (this is the case of the house and senate). In a republic there is no call for people to vote on measures other than elected officials, however there is in a democracy.

LLC companies have nothing to do with corporations. Corporations have been around thousands of years, going back to one of the biggest companies the East India Company. This was owned by share holders, some being of royalty, but in general it was a coporation.

I think you need to flash your brain's firmware.

Re:I don't understand (1)

isa-kuruption (317695) | more than 13 years ago | (#137443)

Try doing a lookup of 'democracy' at [] . I quote:

  1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.
  2. A political or social unit that has such a government.
  3. The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.
  4. Majority rule.
  5. The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.

I think you need to flash your brain's firmware.

Re:Don't corporations pay taxes too? (1)

Nurgster (320198) | more than 13 years ago | (#137444)

Yes, but how much of the research the corps. are paying for is actually funded by the public?

If Corporation X payes college Y to do research in Z, not only does the college have more funds to spend, the researchers (grad students) get to do interesting work.

besides, if it's research that the public has any use for (i.e. is cheap to implement), chances are the corporation could develop it without the college.

Re:No, Virginia, corporations don't taxes. (1)

Nurgster (320198) | more than 13 years ago | (#137445)

Yes, but AFAIK, the corporations do not take research from projects they had no involvment with.

Corporation can pay for research in several ways:

1) Investment - they give the uni cash to do the research. Everyone involved is better off as a result.

2) Sponsorship - Corporations pay for the students to be at the college. Everyone involved is better off as a result.

3) Partnerships - The corporations shares resources with the college to do the research. Everyone involved is better off.

I doubt that any college is stupid enough to give away research that was funded entirely by public funding.

Don't corporations pay taxes too? (3)

Nurgster (320198) | more than 13 years ago | (#137446)

I mean, get real.

Not only do corporations pay taxes, but they also make major contributions to the institutes doing the research.

Surely they have a right to see a return on their investment?

Re:Old story (5)

kaszeta (322161) | more than 13 years ago | (#137447)

s for most of us who have seen the number of NDA's increasing, the patent clauses entering into out contracts, and the number of letters from lawyers suggesting that we talk to them before we talk to our colleagues its definately no surprise. Its not much good for science either, but he who pays the piper....

Indeed, you've hit the nail on the head here.

To maintain and increase the level of technology in our society, it requires research. Research, unfortunately, costs money.

In recent history, many of our larger corporations did much of their R&D work in-house (GE's R&D Center, Bell Labs). And it made a lot of sense to do so, since one of the best ways to make your R&D work profitable is by keeping it proprietary and licensing it. So if your R&D is in-house, it's easier to keep your company secrets secret.

On the flip side of things, Universities traditionally did governmentally and tax-funded research. The important distinction is that, in general (yes, there are a lot of exceptions), Universities worked on basic theoretical research, while Corporate R&D departments generally worked on more applied research.

So what happened? A number of things---Public university funding spent on research declined (whereas money spent on instruction and administration has skyrocketed, but that's another topic), while in the corporate world many R&D departments were gutted since they weren't percieved as being short-term profitable (to look at my previous examples, we all know what's come of Bell Labs, and GE's Corporate R&D center is more of a engineer support center than an R&D center now). But companies still need research, and Universities still need money. The solution of both sides' problems was to have more company-sponsored research.

Alas, the result is that much of our tax money goes, indirectly, to supported corporate R&D work. At least we still have one useful byproduct: universities still produce trained graduates. But unfortunately recent developments, such as the increase in NDA's, and assignment of patent rights to companies, aggravate the situation. As the original article pointed out, for many universities patent income is significant, and now that is being eroded.

Yes, it is an old story, but still one worth examining.

University Research (2)

jonniesmokes (323978) | more than 13 years ago | (#137448)

The unamed university I attended received a *lot* of external funding. Some public, some private, while it is possible for research to be corrupted by commercial interests, its been corrupt for all time. Scientists may be idealistic, but science is not. The best thing about science is its open review process. But the things that science concentrates on have always been at the command of industry and government.

The use of public money to fund private patents is a good debate. But there are many examples of good companies taking the patents and taking the research much further with private money to actually get the job done. Just look at as a good example of what can be done with a patent that started out at a University.

Personally I'd like to see less military oriented public funds research and more commercial interests. It always seemed strange to invent technology where the whole purpose was for it to never actually get used (the idea of defense).

--my opinion, which is subject to change if I learn more

Slashdot Headlines Untrustworthy (2)

s20451 (410424) | more than 13 years ago | (#137449)

Though the headline implies a study of corporately-biased research (leading to a conclusion of bias), the article is merely speculative, rehashing arguments about academic freedom in a corporately sponsored research environment. These arguments are certainly not news.

Re:Question... (1)

KilljoyAZ (412438) | more than 13 years ago | (#137451)

You're right. When the tobacco industry used their scientific studies to show everyone smoking wasn't harmful, there was no need to go back and doublecheck their work.

I mean, why would they put out a product that KILLED their customers, anyways?

Duhhhhh. No shit Sherlock! (1)

index5 (412769) | more than 13 years ago | (#137453)


Re:The Christian Science Monitor? (1)

Magumbo (414471) | more than 13 years ago | (#137454)



Re:I don't understand (2)

Magumbo (414471) | more than 13 years ago | (#137455)

we elect others to make decisions for us within the boundaries of the Constitution

You mean "we" choose 1 of a handful of preselected individuals to make decisions for us. Freedom of choice, bah! There is no freedom of choice for the important things. It's all an illusion. 31 flavors of ice cream, 2 parties. 100 types of toilet paper, 3 nominees.

America sucks.


Re:But SOMEONE needs to make money! (1)

Tech187 (416303) | more than 13 years ago | (#137456)

We need a new law. Maybe we can call it Dogwind's law or something.

It's invoked any time somebody drags in Microsoft as the arch-villan in a completely off-topic fashion.

It'll be handed out lavishly on Slashdot, you can be certain of that.

Well I'll be damned... (1)

powerlinekid (442532) | more than 13 years ago | (#137460)

So it turns out that when Microsoft (this is an example, not a Linux-YAY!!! Microsoft-BOO!!! post) does a "research" comparison that says that Microsoft Access on Windows 3.1 is faster than IBM DB2 on kernel 2.4, that I shouldn't believe them??? Well frankly I'm shocked, my world is now shattered *yawn*.

Re:Well I'll be damned... (1)

powerlinekid (442532) | more than 13 years ago | (#137461)

Well... expectations are just that... expectations, and have nothing to do with realitistic attitudes. Its sad that car companies publish statistics that support their wanting to make things cheaper. Its even sadder that noone is surprised anymore. Why should universities be any different? They are just as competitive and PR greedy as any corporation I've ever known.

Funding Science (1)

hyehye (451759) | more than 13 years ago | (#137462)

First, the issue of government sponsorship of science. There are two main arguments, only one of which is likely to be heard very often. This view is that government is in a position of stewardship of society, and as such, is justified in investing the product of society when there is reason to expect an outcome that is beneficial to the people the society consists of. Under this theory, taxation for the purpose of research is considered not only 'ok', but further, as a necessary component of governmental activity. The other, less heard view, is that government exists (or should) to fulfill three fundamental roles: 1) a legislature and courts to enact and enforce laws; 2) a military to defend our borders; 3) a police force to protect our lives and property from force and fraud. This, summed up, comes out to one statement: Government exists soley for the protection of the citizens against those who would do them harm. Thomas Jefferson said it best, perhaps: "No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him." So what does all of this have to do with government sponsorship of science? A lot, if you consider the fact that the sponsorship part comes in the form of taxes, which are removed from your possession by a gentle yet steady pressure that will, if necessary, come down to the barrel of a gun. Why should you be forced to support programs you do not agree with? I do not agree with government sponsorship of science, or of anything else beyond the three functions mentioned above. But I pay my taxes anyway, because I do not want a gun and boots and a jail cell to educate me on why I was wrong not to do so. In addition, as mentioned by others, this sponsorship often results in applications that are then patented or otherwise made proprietary, forcing the citizen who has just paid for the development of xyz technologies to rush out and pay for them again before s/he can use them.

As for corporate sponsorship, it's the same problem, in many cases - corporations recieve massive tax incentives and legislative favors when they play nice with the government, which amounts to the same thing in the end: government deciding what is best for you, and then using your labor to enact it equally among yourself and all the others who did not contribute. If a corporation funds research on its own, with no governmental assistance in any form, that is a different story, one that I like hearing much better.

Well what were you expecting...? (1)

Purple_Walrus (457070) | more than 13 years ago | (#137475)

In a capitalist society the big companies get a lot of power. On the other hand in a communist society the government gets a lot of the power. So as long as you're a big company or the government you should be OK.


THANK GOD FOR SOME SANITY! Thank you Figec (2)

fortinbras47 (457756) | more than 13 years ago | (#137476)

preach it!

It surprises me how people who work and live in an environment that grew mightilly through the lack of government interference can be so nostalgic for the heavy hand of big brother.

Re:Question... (1)

return 42 (459012) | more than 13 years ago | (#137477)

Are you serious or is this a troll? It doesn't have to be any good. You just have to convince people it is. Duh...

Re:I don't understand (1)

return 42 (459012) | more than 13 years ago | (#137478)

I suppose this is just a troll, but just in case the poster is really this clueless, I'll answer it.

Speaking for myself, I do not regard every corporation as evil. If they lie to the public, that's evil. If their lies result in the public being massively cheated, that's evil. If their lies result in people dying, as with tobacco, that's very evil. And if their lies result in people dying, who really had no way to know the risks, as with certain American carmakers, that bloody well ought to guarantee a nice long prison term for the corporate officers responsible.

How about when their lies cause widespread ecological havoc, as the doctored global warming studies may yet do? What punishment would be appropriate then? Send them to a penal colony on Venus, perhaps, to let them have a taste of what could happen here because of their lies?

Re:Well I'll be damned... (1)

return 42 (459012) | more than 13 years ago | (#137479)

You have a point, but I think there's a somewhat higher expectation of impartiality and integrity from a university than from a commercial concern like Gartner. We'll have to rethink that perception, won't we?
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