Friday, April 20, 2012

Publish or Patent?

The mantra of the Academy has long been "publish or perish". The April 14th edition of The Economist presents an op-ed entitled Academic Publishing: Open Sesame in which they argue:
Government bodies that fund academic research should require that the results be made available free to the public. So should charities that fund research.
This is a significant issue for those of us who receive government funding to support for-profit R&D (such as the U.S. Small Business Innovation Research awards). A major dilemma for unaffiliated researchers is whether to publish or patent, or in some cases simply stay mum (trade secret, anyone?).

Academic-minded government agencies, like the NIH, NSF, and Department of Education may likely view the lack of peer-reviewed publications by the principal investigator on the subject of their proposed research as a sign that their ideas have low value in that domain, and may thus not fund the research. But publications may foreclose the possibility of patenting an invention or innovation, a death warrant for self-supporting R&D-driven companies. It's a Catch-22 of sorts. But if the end game is to commercialize the innovation, jockeying for the first influx of early-stage funding needs take second seat.

For researchers supported by an academic institution, especially those with tenure, the choice to give freely of their knowledge is an easy decision to make. Their jobs and careers are secure. Yet university technology transfer offices must keep the balance between enlightening publications and enabling ones, to preserve the potential for patents. But the ranks of unaffiliated, world-class researchers is growing as opportunities in the Academy diminish or become less appealing. We simply don't have the luxury of a fully-staffed and accommodating tech transfer team.

While I've asked the question before whether defensive publishing may not at times be worthwhile, it seems the best long-term tack for small businesses and independent researchers is simply to keep quiet, even at the risk of being marginalized by the broader field.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your interest in Research Entrepreneur. I trust that your comments will be germane to the topic under discussion.

I welcome differences of opinion, but I do require that your comments contribute to open and honest discussion. If not, I retain the right to delete your contribution.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.