Money and Research

Regarding your FrontLines item, "The money-making academy,"1 at first I wondered if it was an April fool's joke, then I realized it was serious. This is an unsupported perpetuation of a myth promulgated by the research university establishment. What evidence is there that the commercial activities of universities have benefited society as a whole? Falling tuition costs? Cheaper drug prices? Reduced university budgets supported by fewer taxpayer dollars? I would argue that, in fact, all of the e

May 13, 2002
Mark Chao
Regarding your FrontLines item, "The money-making academy,"1 at first I wondered if it was an April fool's joke, then I realized it was serious. This is an unsupported perpetuation of a myth promulgated by the research university establishment. What evidence is there that the commercial activities of universities have benefited society as a whole? Falling tuition costs? Cheaper drug prices? Reduced university budgets supported by fewer taxpayer dollars?

I would argue that, in fact, all of the evidence clearly demonstrates the opposite effect. The increasing commercialization of university research activities has increased the cost to society as a whole. Universities are pressured to compete for top-dollar researchers, and to maintain state-of-the-art research facilities. The university license agreements generate royalties that are funneled back into the research activities. Companies paying royalties on such licenses merely pass on the cost to the consumer/taxpayer by way of higher drug prices. And during this entire process, both universities and companies can plead innocent as to the spiraling costs of research.

It is a sham, designed to perpetuate the inflated costs of research and the huge support/regulatory system in place to encourage it. If universities truly wanted to benefit society by their research discoveries, they would dedicate their discoveries, sponsored by the public funds, to the public for all to use equally, and for none to monopolize. A return to pure academic research would be the most beneficial to society.

Mark Chao, PhD, JD
8152 Lorel Ave.
Skokie IL 60077
chao60077@yahoo.com

1. T. Agres, "The money-making academy," The Scientist, 16[7]:7, April 1, 2002.