• commercially oriented faculty are less likely to publish in the open literature (on the contrary, they are more prolific producers of scientific articles);

  • commercial motives have shifted effort away from fundamental research questions and toward more applied research questions;

  • institutional or sponsor concerns to protect IP rights have resulted in more than modest delays in publication of research results; and

  • commercial involvement and IP activity have replaced scholarly output and its quality as the principal criteria for academic employment and advancement.

Several studies address whether university IP has limited the incentive or ability of investigators to build on prior research because of delayed or denied access or excessive fees or coordination costs. A few studies found a statistically significant decline in citations to published knowledge after the grant of patents on that knowledge. But surveys of investigators have found the potential of an “anti-commons” effect to be mitigated by a variety of factors, primarily a lack of awareness of or concern about patents on inputs to academic research, but also other influences such as NIH guidance and occasional intervention to lower barriers to research tool access.91 The sole documented exception where IP rights may have been problematic (i.e., gene-based diagnostic testing) is technology-specific. Moreover, because there are charges for diagnostic tests in most cases as well as research uses of such tests, this activity often lies on the border between research and commercial activity.

Other, subtler negative effects of faculty entrepreneurial activity and university patenting and licensing are difficult to investigate and quantify but may be occurring. If so, they should be considered along with other, positive effects associated with the activity. For example, participation in external networking and consulting—means of communicating the results of research—has probably increased along with formal technology transfer activity involving IP transactions. And although its distribution is highly skewed across institutions and research fields, income from IP-based transactions has increased the pool of research funds available to departments, research centers, and investigators.

Although these relationships bear close watching for changes, at this time the research evidence points to only one issue that needs to be addressed—the difficulty that researchers experience in accessing biological research materials, both patented and unpatented, may have increased over time. University-to-university requests are denied or ignored with some frequency, affecting whether the research can be undertaken at all or at least whether it can proceed expeditiously. When an exchange involves a formal agreement or an MTA, the process of negotiating an agreement frequently involves costs in terms of delays in proceeding with research, restricted freedom of action, and financial costs to institutions.


Thursby and Thursby, 2008, op. cit.; Walsh et al. 2005 and 2007, op. cit.

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