This post is a reply to a post David Prosser wrote on the GOAL list in response to my post on the RCUK consultation.
On 18-Mar-12, at 5:07 AM, David Prosser wrote:
Say I wanted to data mine 10,000 articles. I'm at a university, but I am co-funded by a pharmaceutical company and there is a possibility that the research that I'm doing may result in a new drug discovery, which that company will want to take to market. The 10,000 articles are all 'open access', but they are under CC-BY-NC-SA licenses. What mechanism is there by which I can contact all 10,000 authors and gain permission for my research?
Many thanks for raising this question, David, which brings up a number of interesting points. There is one that I would like to highlight first off as a basic underlying assumption that from my perspective should be challenged. That is the assumption that the increasing corporate involvement in universities is desirable. I argue that it is not. Co-funding of university research by pharmaceutical companies is problematic. What I would recommend instead is reversal of the corporate and high income earner tax breaks brought in, in many countries, over the past few decades as part of the neoliberal ideology*. That way, the public will have enough resources so that universities can be funded by the public to conduct research in the public interest. This would likely need to happen at a global level - an appropriate role for international bodies, from my perspective - to avoid the current risk of capital flight (companies pick up and move to wherever tax rates, employment and environmental standards are lowest to achieve the highest profits) which is undermining western democracy as a whole.
To illustrate why I say that funding of university research by the corporate sector is problematic, here are just a few examples:
1. Why would pharmaceutical companies want to fund research that might challenge the claims of their successful drugs?
2. What incentive would a pharmaceutical company have to find a cheap or free alternative to their expensive drugs? For example, if a pharmaceutical company is making a lot of profit from selling drugs to combat colon cancer, why would it fund research on public campaigns to encourage preventive measures such as eating vegetables? In the U.K., my understanding is that recent cuts have hit the social sciences and humanities hard. This means universities need to rely more on funding sources such as pharmaceutical companies while at the same time there is less support for this kind of basic, public-oriented research.
3. Should research on the environment be conducted by and for the public interest - or report to the companies responsible for pollution?
* Note on neoliberal ideology: think Thatcherism / Reaganism, the idea that the invisible hand of the market will take care of everything, if only we give it free reign. The "invisible hand of the market" comes from a superficial skim of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations (superficial because proponents do not speak to Smith's simultaneous call for the strong hand of the state, or the basic underlying assumption of continuous growth, which many would argue is impossible given the real limits of our ecosphere). For more on neoliberalism, I recommend David Harvey's brief and highly readable "A brief history of neoliberalism". We've been giving this a try for four decades, and what are the results? The global financial crisis of 2008, the debt crisis in Greece (and other countries), the Citizens United decision in the U.S. giving corporate money a right to free speech - a significant blow to democracy. It is timely to question this basic assumption, not continue on our current path.
This message is posted here rather than to the GOAL list because this discussion is not permitted on the GOAL list. Further discussion is welcome from my perspective through many venues, however please note that I am no longer subscribing to GOAL