An issue that has received almost no attention in the debate about university-industry partnerships reaches beyond the norms of science and the mission of the university. I am referring to the importance to society of an independent academic sector.

Professors are frequently called on to provide technical expertise and to exercise independent judgment across the range of public policy. Scientists serve on a host of public advisory committees and risk assessment panels at all levels of government. Every regulatory and funding agency depends on the use of outside experts. For this process to work effectively in our highly complex technological society, it is essential that we secure unbiased, objective advice from individuals who are financially disinterested in the areas in which they are called on to consult. To take an admittedly hypothetical example, if every nuclear scientist in the academic world were on the payroll of the nuclear industry, where,...

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