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Commercialization, Research, Public Institutions


We are presently witnessing a remarkable emphasis upon the commercialization of research in public institutions around the world. The issue is polarizing within the academic community, but the commercialization of research in public institutions has, in itself, largely failed to capture the public imagination. Nothing suggests that a large-scale debate on this issue is forthcoming in Canada or elsewhere. The purpose of this paper is therefore to build the case for why large-scale debate is necessary and to set the stage for that debate by providing an account of all of the alleged benefits and harms of commercialization. Our review of these benefits and harms exposes the fact that there is much that we simply do not know about the impact of commercialization, which provides support for the claim that much greater caution is warranted on the part of public institutions currently embracing this phenomenon with enthusiasm. Therefore, to ensure that this social experiment proceeds safely, ethically, and democratically, we must start gathering and sharing all of the relevant information pertaining to effects of this commercialization phenomenon, engage all those with relevant expertise and those whose interests are at stake in discussions about the values involved and the relative merits of various courses of action, and then ground policies and practice in the arena of commercialization in these discussions.

Publication Abbreviation

McGill Health L Publication (now McGill JL & Health)