through the application of new knowledge in the application of a process or the design of a product that is uniquely available to one company and not to its competitors. To this end, commercial value relies on the control of proprietary information or control of the use of the information (Low, 1983). Thus, the academic freedom of academia and the desire to advance knowledge for its own sake conflicts with the needs of both industry and the academic institution to develop products.
Results of the survey reported by Blumenthal et al. (1986a) suggest that academic-industry relationships in the biotechnology research arena were associated with some potentially worrisome departures from the traditional Mertonian academic behaviors and norms (Merton, 1942). For example, approximately one third of faculty engaged in biotechnology research reported that their choice of research topics had been influenced by the likelihood that the research results would have commercial application, whereas less than 10 percent of those without industry support indicated that their choice had been so influenced. Moreover, biotechnology faculty with industrial support were more than four times as likely as their colleagues without such support to report that proprietary information had resulted from their investigations (Blumenthal et al., 1986a). Additionally, faculty involved in industry relationships were nearly five times as likely to report that their research results were the property of their industrial sponsors and could not be published without the sponsor's consent. These reports have raised concerns about the whether academic-industry linkages can potentially compromise the objective role of academic institutions in the development of fundamental biological knowledge (Blumenthal, 1992).
The main commodity of the biomedical academic-industrial research enterprise is unique proprietary information that can be used to develop competitive products. Many research projects arrive at a crossroads—where following one path of investigation would provide interesting information with no near-term application to product development, whereas an alternate path may lead to more immediate product development. Industry that is funding research at academic institutions would prefer the strategy that leads to near-term product development; the academic investigator may have a different objective. Industry needs to protect this information to justify a large investment, and patents provide a way to protect the information. However, academic faculty, in the spirit of open and uninhibited communication of research findings, wish to present these findings at scientific meetings and publish scholarly works in peer-reviewed journals. Prompt publication of findings or presentation of findings at a scientific meeting may conflict with the need of industry to protect information and release it at a later time to limit competitor access as long as possible. Furthermore, academic institutions have now recognized the value of patents, and the timing of release of information from academic research is an emerging issue that needs further scrutiny.