Take the power back from business, AAUP demands

Universities need to update guidelines on industry collaboration to reinstate academic rights that have been "seriously eroded" over the past generation, a report by the American Association of University Professors has said.

June 21, 2012

Recommended Principles and Practices to Guide Academy-Industry Relationships, a draft report released on 13 June, laments the corporate control of academia that can stem from collaborations, such as which faculty members can participate in a project or whether and when papers are published.

It also stresses academics' responsibility to behave in an "ethical and professional manner" and criticises the "ghostwriting" of industry- led publications and undisclosed conflicts of interest.

Among the 56 recommendations are calls to ensure that agreements with industry sponsors include provisions to prevent companies threatening to pull funding if they are unhappy with academic decisions, and for joint university-industry governing bodies to have no oversight of issues such as staffing and curriculum design.

Asserting researchers' right to direct and control the results of their work is also central to the guidelines. Handing control of inventions discovered by academics to universities should on the whole be voluntary not mandatory, and intellectual property rights should not be sought without inventors' consent, it says.

But there is disagreement on the report's findings. The Association of American Universities said that although it shared many of the report's goals, the recommendations on intellectual property would "dismantle the fundamental structure" of US laws that give universities the right to profit from publicly funded research.

But the AAUP has called the report "unstinting in its defence of academic freedom and the rights of faculty to control their research agendas and the fate of the intellectual property they create".

It wants to see the report debated and its guidelines adopted in handbooks, research contracts and collective bargaining agreements between academics and universities.

elizabeth.gibney@tsleducation.com.

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