The Bayh-Dole Act and publicly-funded research

Science: in passing — this came up elsewhere, and it’s worth copying here, too (for reference).

The question was: how much should publicly-funded researchers be required to disclose – should they be allowed to generate ‘closed-source’ solutions at the taxpayers’ expense?

In the US and world-wide, there used to be a tradition that government-funded research should be made open to all, since if it was funded from public taxation, the fruits of that taxation should go back to the public. However, 25 years ago, the US enacted the Bayh-Dole Act, in which:

  • Universities were encouraged to collaborate commercial concerns to promote the utilization of inventions arising from federal funding.
  • It was clearly stated that universities may elect to retain title to inventions developed through government funding.
  • Universities must file patents on inventions they elect to own.

So in other words, the government has dictated since 1980 that government-funded research should not produce open-source or public-domain solutions, necessarily, as the results of research are to be considered private-sector profit-generating centers for the host universities. Naturally, cash-strapped universities have imposed internal regulations to maximise revenue from their research staff.

The implications for whatever ‘the next BSD TCP/IP stack’ may be are obvious.

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