When academia puts profit ahead of wonder

More than a quarter-century after President Jimmy Carter signed the Bayh-Dole Act, which encourages universities to patent and license results of federally financed research, the law is under increasing scrutiny by swelling ranks of critics, reports the New York Times. The primary concern is that its original intent–to infuse the American marketplace with the fruits of academic innovation–has also distorted the fundamental mission of universities. In the past, discovery for its own sake provided academic motivation, but today’s universities function more like corporate research laboratories. Rather than freely sharing techniques and results, researchers increasingly keep new findings under wraps to maintain a competitive edge. What used to be peer-reviewed is now proprietary. "Share and share alike" has devolved into "every laboratory for itself." In trying to power the innovation economy, have we turned America’s universities into cutthroat business competitors, zealously guarding the very innovations we so desperately want behind a hopelessly tangled web of patents and royalty licenses?

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