Thursday, April 20, 2006

Science in the Private Interest

Interesting reading recently, from Tufts professor Sheldon Krimsky's 2003 book Science in the Private Interest:
Public policies and legal decisions have created new incentives for universities, their faculty, and publicly supported nonprofit research institutes to commercialize scientific and medical research and to develop partnerships with forprofit companies. The new academic–industry and nonprofit–for-profit liaisons have led to changes in the ethical norms of scientific and medical researchers. The consequences are that secrecy has replaced openness; privatization of knowledge has replaced communitarian values; and commodification of discovery has replaced the idea that university-generated knowledge is a free good, a part of the social commons. The rapid growth of entrepreneurship in universities has resulted in an unprecedented rise in conflicts of interest, specifically in areas sensitive to public concern. Conflicts of interest among scientists has been linked to research bias as well as the loss of a socially valuable ethical norm — disinterestedness — among academic researchers. As universities turn their scientific laboratories into commercial enterprise zones and as they select their faculty to realize these goals, fewer opportunities will exist in academia for public-interest science—an inestimable loss to society.
More information here.