The Commodification of Academic Research

The Commodification of Academic Research: Science and the Modern University

Edited by Hans Radder
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    The Commodification of Academic Research
    Book Description:

    Selling science has become a common practice in contemporary universities. This commodification of academia pervades many aspects of higher education, including research, teaching, and administration. As such, it raises significant philosophical, political, and moral challenges. This volume offers the first book-length analysis of this disturbing trend from a philosophical perspective and presents views by scholars of philosophy of science, social and political philosophy, and research ethics.The epistemic and moral responsibilities of universities, whether for-profit or nonprofit, are examined from several philosophical standpoints. The contributors discuss the pertinent epistemological and methodological questions, the sociopolitical issues of the organization of science, the tensions between commodified practices and the ideal of "science for the public good," and the role of governmental regulation and personal ethical behavior. In order to counter coercive and corruptive influences of academic commodification, the contributors consider alternatives to commodified research and offer practical recommendations for establishing appropriate research standards, methodologies and institutional arrangements, and a corresponding normative ethos.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7758-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. CHAPTER 1 The Commodification of Academic Research
    (pp. 1-23)
    Hans Radder

    Since the 1980s, most universities in the Western world have experienced substantial changes as a consequence of an ongoing process of commodification. Commodification affects a variety of aspects of higher education, such as research, teaching, administration, and even such nonacademic activities as the intercollegiate sports programs of U.S. universities. This book focuses on one of these aspects, namely the commodification of academic research.¹

    The aim of the book is to describe, analyze, and evaluate the various facets of commodified academic research from a philosophical perspective; in addition, where appropriate, alternatives to commodified research will be proposed and discussed. More specifically,...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Commercialization of Academic Culture and the Future of the University
    (pp. 24-43)
    Daniel Lee Kleinman

    In the spring of 2007, many professors at the University of California at Berkeley were distressed about that university’s selection as the site for a $500 million research institute on biofuels to be funded by BP, the mega-energy corporation (Blumenstyk 2007 ). Their demand to institutionalize faculty oversight of this major academic-industry collaboration replays a controversy at Berkeley over its 1998 $25 million arrangement with Novartis (Rudy et al. 2007 ). And yet while these partnerships may be emblematic of the new age of the knowledge economy, such relationships are not especially widespread. Indeed, even adding these mega-initiatives to the...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Knowledge Transfer from Academia to Industry through Patenting and Licensing: RHETORIC AND REALITY
    (pp. 44-64)
    Sigrid Sterckx

    This chapter addresses one aspect of the question of the actual versus desirable sociopolitical organization of academic science in modern societies—the aspect of patenting and licensing activities of universities. Academic patenting and licensing activities have massively increased since the 1980s in the United States and the 1990s in Europe. As this trend is clearly impacting the dissemination of and access to academic knowledge, the question arises whether the current encouragement of academic patenting and licensing is indeed generating the main benefit that policy makers at both the university and the government level claim it is achieving, namely, the commercial...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Financial Interests and the Norms of Academic Science
    (pp. 65-89)
    David B. Resnik

    Modern science is a business: a big business. Every year, private corporations, government agencies, universities, and private foundations spend hundreds of billions of dollars on research and development (R&D). The amount of private money invested in science has risen steadily since the 1980s and has outpaced the amount of public money spent on science. Today, about 60 percent of the world’s R&D is sponsored by industry, and about 35 percent is sponsored by governments. In 2004, the United States spent approximately $368 billion on R&D, $122.7 billion of which was federally funded R&D, and $245.4 billion of which was non-federally...

  8. CHAPTER 5 One-Shot Science
    (pp. 90-109)
    James Robert Brown

    People often fail to worry about commercial sources of research funding. Perhaps this is because they take it to be part of the “discovery” side of science. That is, commercial interests are seen as the source and motivation of new ideas, nothing more. The real testing and justification of such ideas is independent of their noble or unsavory origins. The discovery-justification distinction is old and perhaps even a part of common sense. Indeed, the so-called genetic fallacy is part of common wisdom. The distinction has occasionally been rightly criticized, but some weak form of it is surely correct and that...

  9. CHAPTER 6 The Business of Drug Research: A MIXED BLESSING
    (pp. 110-131)
    Albert W. Musschenga, Wim J. van der Steen and Vincent K. Y. Ho

    Decades ago, in the 1970s and 1980s, the idea that science should be “socially relevant” had broad support, also among (university) scientists. Scientists should leave their ivory tower, stop doing science only for the sake of science, become aware of the impact of their research on society, and let the needs of society determine their research agenda. Critical scientists worked together, for example, with trade unions and environmental groups, but rarely with business corporations, which were assumed to act for their own interests rather than the interests of society. They held that socially relevant research (or public interest research) should...

  10. CHAPTER 7 The Commodification of Knowledge Exchange: GOVERNING THE CIRCULATION OF BIOLOGICAL DATA
    (pp. 132-157)
    Sabina Leonelli

    Philosophers of science tend to focus their attention on the conditions under which scientific knowledge is produced and applied. This chapter considers instead the conditions under which knowledge isexchangedin science, with particular attention to the boom in bioinformatic resources characterizing contemporary biology and medicine. I show how the ongoing commodification of the life sciences affects the ways in which data are circulated across research contexts. The necessity for scientists to develop ways to communicate with one another and build on one another’s work constitutes a powerful argument against at least some forms of privatization of data for commercial...

    (pp. 158-186)
    Martin Carrier

    Application-dominated industrial research is often claimed to suffer from superficial and biased judgments and to have lost its epistemic reputation. The commercialization process is said to lead to a biased research agenda, keep public science out of corporate laboratories, and induce methodological sloppiness. My thesis is that the impact of commercialization on the epistemic quality of scientific research is limited and that the remaining deficits can be remedied by an increased emphasis on publicly sponsored research. This conclusion is supposed to alleviate concerns associated with the commodification of academic research.

    First, bias in topic selection is real in commercialized research...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Robert Merton, Intellectual Property, and Open Science: A SOCIOLOGICAL HISTORY FOR OUR TIMES
    (pp. 187-230)
    Henk van den Belt

    Let us start with a remarkable letter from the famous chemist (and economist) Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, written at a crucial juncture of the French Revolution when the Jacobins set out to reorganize or abolish the Academy of Sciences:



    18 July 1793


    As I am totally unacquainted with the plans that have been suggested for the suppression or reorganization of the Academy of Sciences, it might be possible that the remarks that I had the honor to address to you yesterday do not entirely correspond to your views.

    I hear, for instance,...

  13. CHAPTER 10 Mertonian Values, Scientific Norms, and the Commodification of Academic Research
    (pp. 231-258)
    Hans Radder

    In the course of the past decade, the commodification—and more specifically the commercialization—of academic science since the 1980s has been explored and a variety of studies of this phenomenon have become available.¹ To be sure, science at large has always included research primarily carried out for its economic benefit, especially since the second half of the nineteenth century. Just think of the many scientific laboratories of smaller and larger industrial firms. The substantial commodification of academic science is a more recent phenomenon, however, even if it surely occurred to some extent in earlier times. This chapter addresses the...

  14. CHAPTER 11 Coercion, Corruption, and Politics in the Commodification of Academic Science
    (pp. 259-276)
    Mark B. Brown

    Commercial ventures between university researchers and private companies have become a matter of widespread debate. Advocates of such ventures usually present university-industry partnerships as benefiting the general public. They promise new technologies and consumer products that will stimulate the economy, and thus eventually benefit everyone. Even a prominent critic of commercialization notes that market forces have caused universities “to become less stodgy and elitist and more vigorous in their efforts to aid economic growth” (Bok 2003, 15–16). Indeed, some recent studies of scientific practice reveal an emerging “spiral model of innovation,” in which laboratory research and its commercial applications...

    (pp. 277-306)
    Steve Fuller

    Critiques of capitalism come in two kinds. I shall begin by presenting them in the spirit in which they are normally discussed. One kind attacks capitalismin practice. It is associated with Joseph Schumpeter, who targeted the monopolization of capital for stifling the entrepreneurial spirit, capitalism’s very soul. The other critique is older and goes deeper, attacking capitalismin principle. It is associated with Karl Marx, who targeted the commodification of labor for alienating us from our common humanity. Whereas Schumpeter was worried about capitalism’s practical tendency to concentrate wealth and thereby arrest the economy’s natural dynamism, Marx objected to...

  16. CHAPTER 13 Viable Alternatives for Commercialized Science: THE CASE OF HUMANISTICS
    (pp. 307-336)
    Harry Kunneman

    In this chapter I try to heed Hans Radder’s suggestion, formulated in the introduction to this book, to address “viable alternatives for commercialized science.” To this end I focus on humanistics as a new discipline, situated at the crossroads of the social sciences and the humanities. This discipline tries to connect two different types of questions. On the one hand questions in the domain of existential meaning and the “art of living,” on the other questions concerning the humanization of institutions and organizations. I will argue that the case of humanistics is highly interesting for the central theme of this...

  17. List of Contributors
    (pp. 337-340)
  18. Index
    (pp. 341-350)