. "6 Diluting Public Patrimony or Inventive Response to Increasing Knowledge Asymmetries: Watershed for Land Grant Universities? Reflections on the University of California, Berkeley-Novartis Agreement." Research Teams and Partnerships: Trends in the Chemical Sciences, Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1999.
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tions—the so-called "life sciences corporations"—appear to hold as proprietary information a key fraction of the field's salient intellectual capital. They maintain this information so closely that our Department of Plant and Microbial Biology (PMB) could no longer assure the university that it could provide a top-flight education for the graduate students. There is a sufficient monopoly over this kind of intellectual capital, and the department encountered a series of surprising outcomes over the past four or five years. This is a very interesting and troubling consequence. One might suggest, to be optimistic about this, that we in the higher education world have been very successful in producing our own competitors in the private sector.
The consequences for the free flow of information are very troubling, and they comprise one of the drivers to the events that have unfolded at Berkeley. The combined concerns of a funding shortage and nonavailability of proprietary data were serious concerns to the people involved. First, there was inadequate laboratory space for continuing the department's outstanding research program and the fear that the department's standing as a major research and teaching resource in the discipline would be significantly diminished. Second and more novel was a fear that the equally important public function of assuring broadly available basic knowledge might be truncated in favor of the self-interests of multinational corporations. It could be argued that the interests of these groups might not be consistent with the economic and agricultural interests of the American West.
The agricultural subplot involves the deep division among students of agricultural resources about the respective roles of aggressive manipulation of genetic materials in the interest of sustainable food supplies on one hand, and other less intrusive methods of sustaining agricultural production on the other. This division could provide a very important disagreement with regard to the colleagues who might be joining this enterprise.
The challenge at Berkeley was to increase resources both for expensive genetic research and research infrastructure and, at the same time, crack the hold on proprietary genomic information held by the several multinational corporations in the United States and Switzerland.
Gordon Rausser, the dean of the CNR, gave considerable thought to this problem of how to work with the corporate world. He is an economist, and this is partially reflected in the kind of design criteria he used to frame an invitation to the five corporations to bid for the services of the PMB. (See Box 6.1.)
One should realize that "in the public interest" (see premise 3 in Box 6.1) does not mean research on issues that the public thinks are important. It is research—often basic research—for which the outcome is expected both to benefit the public and be accessible to it. Rausser uses the language of "public-good research" as something that comes out of a special subdialect of economics. So the CNR had this interesting idea of attempting to deal with a number of issues discussed at this workshop.
In the spring and summer of 1998, the CNR worked through these very interesting principles quite rigorously in the way the college presented them to the potential bidders, and then waited for returns. The four U.S. corporations responded to the competitive bidding with bids that were considered predatory and not at all in the spirit of the design; these bids were rejected, almost out of hand. Novartis, then a new corporation, formed by the merger of two other companies, responded in the spirit of the offer, and the resulting contract worked its way through the legal and administrative offices of the UC Berkeley campus during the summer. In early fall, the dean invited the views of the academic senate, which has a very strong role in shared governance. My abrupt acquaintance with this story began then, as chair of the senate's committee on research. This committee' s main role is to dispense small enabling