Private money in universities

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I was listening to the podcast alô ciência, in which they discuss the interplay between science and politics, and they touch on why universities should not accept money from companies. The discussion is too superficial, and they claim that a company may be funding research for something innocuous (they cite a cosmetic company, for example), or they may be funding the development of a bomb.

This is a very naive way of discussing the role of money in universities and the role of Technology Transfer. First, it does not acknowledge that science can happen also in the private environment. The only difference is the incentives scientists have to work on different topics. Academic science can focus in basic research without commercial purposes, while industrial science probably will only fund topics which have a specific value.

This does not mean per-se that companies should not be allowed to fund research in universities. It means that there should be a better regulation of how that money reaches specific scientists. If a company funds a researcher, there is room for speculation regarding the objectivity of the results published, but if there is a buffer in between (such as an independent institute receiving the funds), this can be lifted.

While in some places people still keep the discussion of the purity of science, in others they have much more fluid ways of sharing knowledge in and out of academic science. One can argue what is the role of public money, and how to be sure that it is not fueling private gain, but they don't argue the need to have a scientific system that transfer knowledge to society.


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Aquiles Carattino
Aquiles Carattino
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