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The erosion of the intellectual commons



b2906ed 793..794 The erosion of the intellectual commons In the research centre that I run, rarely a day goes by without the dreadful term intellectual property rights (IPR) being raised concerning issues as to what we are able to research, how we are to charge for it, even whether or not we should bid for a research project. This creeping control no longer stops at the kind of work which our full-time paid research assistants are able to do, but it is increasingly affecting the funding of our research students. In the inexorable quest of the Research Councilsö the agencies that fund basic research in UK universitiesöto force academics to get `relevant' and develop their research in relation to organisations outside the `ivory tower', many research studentships are bid for competitively, almost as research grants, with the outside organisation agreeing to modestly enhance the stipend for the PhD student. There are other vehicles too to make universities `relevant', such as Teaching Company Schemes, Link programmes, and so on. In all these cases which now cover virtually all outside funding for research, the intellectual property is no longer vested in the researcher or in the university per se. Outside agencies want an increasing amount of the pot while university bureaucracies aid and abet them in the oft-mistaken belief that, if you negotiate hard enough, some of the riches at the end of the research rainbow will accrue to the resource-starved institutions that provide the environment for such work in the first place. Frequently those negotiating the transfer of these intellectual property rights have little clue as to what is being researched or its value. Moreover, there is something a little perverse in universities negotiating with outside agencies over research that they do not understand, which is to be carried out by students over whom they have no control and whose abilities to do the research are often not known in advance. The whole enterprise, in my view, seems to be largely misg

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