Who Owns Science? Promises and Pitfalls of the Public-Private Partnerships
Who should own science?
As a part of the current system for the funding of science new provisions were designed over the last quarter of a century on both sides of the Atlantic. They were meant to provide an incentive for universities to privatize and protect their innovations and, ideally, for industry to make high-risk investments resulting in products made from those innovations. This gave rise to a steep increase in multiple forms of public-private partnerships and a systematic privatization of science. Among the questions we would like to raise at this meeting are, how has this reorganization of the funding landscape affected the practice of science? What are the benefits, and what are the possible limitations and drawbacks for the research enterprise?
Is there a risk that private interests underlying much of industrial funding of basic research undermine the quality and reliability of research? A demonstrative example would be some reported cases of a failure to report results unfavourable to the funder. What can scientists do to safeguard against such challenges to retain the trust that is invested in them by the public? Those are among the issues that will be addressed in a series of four talks by renowned speakers followed by a panel discussion at this year's EMBL-EBI Science and Society symposium held during the Cambridge Science Festival in March 2010: 'Who Owns Science? Promises and Pitfalls of Public-Private Partnerships.
- John Sulston, Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation, University of Manchester
- Gregory Jordan, EMBL-EBI, UK
- Julia Fischer, EMBL-EBI, UK
- Michele Mattioni, EMBL-EBI, UK
- Jaqueline Hess, EMBL-EBI, UK
- Annika Oellrich, EMBL-EBI, UK
- Louisa Wright, EMBL-EBI, UK
- Paul Flicek, EMBL-EBI, UK
- Cath Brooksbank, EMBL-EBI, UK
- Halldor Stefansson, EMBL Heidelberg, Germany
|Time||Who Owns Science? Promises and Pitfalls of the Public-Private Partnerships. Programme|
|14:15-14:45||Innovation at the Interface
|14:45-15:15||The detrimental effects of corporate influence on science and technology
|15:45-16:15||Taking back control of translation
|16:15-16:45||Innovation Works: Putting Science to Work
Born in Buckinghamshire in 1942, Sir John Sulston obtained his first degree from Cambridge University in 1963. He stayed in Cambridge to pursue a Ph.D., working on nucleotide chemistry which he completed in 1966. After embarking to the Salk Institute in the USA to do post-doctoral work, he eventually returned to Cambridge in 1969 to join Sydney Brenner's lab at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.
It was here where he started working on the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, studying the developmental processes leading from egg to worm. Together with his colleagues, John eventually produced a complete map of the cellular development of an organism which contributed to the award of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2002 that was shared with Sydney Brenner and Robert Horvitz.
John also played a central role in both the C.elegans and human genome sequencing projects. This resulted in him becoming the founding director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridgeshire in 1992.
Since retiring from his position as a director in 2000, John has been an outspoken and active voice in the discussion of the ethics and politics of science with a focus on free release, intellectual property and global inequality. In 2007, he was appointed chair of the newly founded Institute of Science, Ethics and Innovation at the University of Manchester.
Amongst numerous other awards, John is a Fellow of the Royal Society and an honorary fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge.
Prof. Sir John Sulston, Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation, University of Manchester
Tim graduated with a BA in Biochemistry from University of Cambridge in 1985 and a PhD in Protein Design from the Department of Crystallography, Birkbeck College, London in 1988.
Following a postdoctoral fellowship at the Protein Engineering Research Institute in Osaka under the EU scientific training program in Japan (1989-90) he returned to Cambridge becoming a Zeneca Fellow at the Medical Research Council (MRC), Centre for Protein Engineering. In 1997 he joined the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute to become Head of Human Genome Analysis. He has been Head of Informatics and a Board of Management member since 2007.
Tim has served on many national and international advisory boards including the advisory council of the RIKEN Genome Science Centre, Japan as chairman (2005-2007), the Expert Group on European research infrastructure for genomics, bioinformatics, animal resources, proteomics, and structural biology of the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) (2005-2006), the advisory board of ukPMC (UK PubMedCentral) as deputy chair (2007-), the steering group of the National Genetics Reference Laboratories (NGRL) (2007-) and the E-Health Records Research Board of the UK Government Office for Strategic Coordination of Health Research (OSCHR) (2007-). In his private capacity he is also significantly involved in international policy discussions around innovation, intellectual property and public health.
Dr. Tim Hubbard, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.
David Searls received undergraduate degrees in philosophy and in life sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a PhD in biology from the Johns Hopkins University. During a postdoctoral fellowship at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia he turned his attention to computational biology, and received a Master's in Computer and Information Science from the University of Pennsylvania. He then spent seven years at the Unisys Corporation in artificial intelligence research and development, including work on logic-based expert systems and computational linguistic approaches to DNA sequence analysis.
In 1991 he returned to Penn as Research Associate Professor of Genetics, with a secondary appointment in Computer and Information Science. During this time he co-founded the meeting series Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB) and was a founding board member of the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB).
In 1995 he moved to SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals, where he became VP of Bioinformatics. At the time of the GlaxoSmithKline merger in 2001, he was appointed Senior VP, responsible for informatics support at five sites in the US and Europe. He left GSK in late 2008, and is now an independent consultant. He currently serves on the Informatics Advisory Committee of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) Foundation, the Protein Databank (PDB) Advisory Committee, the Nomenclature Committee of the International Union of Pharmacology (IUPHAR), the UniProt Scientific Advisory Board, and several advisory panels for university-based research institutes.
The question of who should own science assuredly begs the question of whether anybody should own science. This more fundamental issue tends to pit one set of ideals surrounding science, mainly to do with discovery, against others centered on invention. I will consider some historical origins of our divergent attitudes toward pure and applied science, and in that context address the question of how best to stimulate innovation, the stated intent of intellectual property laws. Policies and initiatives intended to promote innovation at the interface of academia and industry have taken one approach, focused on entrepreneurship, technology transfer, patents, royalties, and the like. Might there be alternative approaches that take better account of both the underlying economics and the traditional ideals of science?
Stuart Parkinson holds an undergraduate degree in physics and electronic engineering and a PhD in climate science, both from Lancaster University. His experiences, during his undergraduate degree, of work placements in military industry raised a range of ethical concerns which caused a shift in his career path. After obtaining his doctorate, he worked on a number of voluntary programmes in environmental and social areas, both in the UK and abroad. Stuart then spent five years in a postdoctoral post at the Centre for Environmental Strategy at the University of Surrey, where his research mainly involved work on climate and energy policy, and environmental systems analysis. During this time he became an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and provided advice to UK negotiators to the UN climate change convention. He then spent a year working for Friends of the Earth, co-ordinating research and policy work highlighting the link between environmental problems and social injustice.
Stuart became Executive Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) in 2003. SGR is a UK-based organisation, with over 1000 members mainly drawn from the science and engineering professions, whose aim is to 'promote ethical science, design and technology'. During his time in this post, he has edited/authored numerous reports, briefings and articles, including in-depth reports on commercial and military influence on science and technology.
Dr. Stuart Parkinson, Scientists For Global Responsibility, Folkestone, UK
Many policy-makers, business leaders and members of the science community are very supportive of the much closer links that have been developed between commerce and the universities in recent years. They argue that this change is positive for both science and society. However, there is growing evidence that the science commercialisation agenda brings with it a wide range of detrimental effects. These include:
sponsorship bias, where the source of funding for a research project influences the outcome
commercial confidentiality restrictions, leading to selective reporting of research results
undeclared conflicts of interest among researchers
prioritisation of research with narrow economic benefits, at the expense of research aimed at providing broader health, social or environmental benefits
erosion of the academic ethos at universities through the increased focus on commercial activities
marketing bias, where information on the costs and benefits of a new product does not accurately reflect the research
misleading public relations campaigns funded by business which (sometimes covertly) aim to change opinion on a science and technology issue to the advantage of the company concerned
This talk will summarise evidence of problems across five sectors: pharmaceuticals; tobacco; military/defence; oil and gas; and biotechnology. It will also suggest a range of proposals for improving the openness, independence and reliability of academic research.
After spending three years as a research scientist at the Boehringer Ingelheim Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna, Dr. Lamm joined Wacker Chemie, a major global supplier of silicone and polymer raw materials and semi-conductors. At Wacker Chemie, Dr. Lamm was Business-Team Leader in the division specialising in advanced ceramic components for high-tech applications. As of October 2000 he is Managing Director of EMBL Enterprise Management Technology Transfer GmbH, the wholly owned subsidiary of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory.
Dr. Lamm is an alumnus of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory Ph.D. program and of the Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds, is co-founder of the EMBL Technology Fund (ETF). He is on the board of directors of the BioRegio RND e. V. (Heidelberg) and former vice-president (2002-2006) of the Association of European Science and Technology Transfer Professionals (ASTP).
Are we in the golden age of “pure” science or is it behind us? Is the concept of scientific research with “no strings attached” a fata morgana and has it ever been thus? Is the “ownership” of science really a central problem? Is the influence of industry/commerce on basic research detrimental or rather a natural evolution of the scientific environment we live in? The talk will address these questions both from an historic perspective as well as using real case examples to demonstrate that, if properly managed, interaction between academic research and industry is essential and brings benefit(s) not only to both parties but ultimately to society which foots the bill for public research.
The venue for the symposium is lecture room 9 in the Mill Lane Lecture Rooms, Mill Lane, Cambridge. It is located in the city centre within walking distance (about 20 min) from the station. Maps and directions can be found here.