Biomedical researchers are under intense pressure to commercialise their work. And the pressure is growing in strength and coming from new directions. If you are a biomedical researcher operating in today’s research environment, the successful commercialisation of your work is not, as it was once perceived, a fortunate and coincidental by-product of blue-sky science. It is an expectation.
In this brief comment I seek to: (1) highlight the degree to which, in Canada, commercialisation pressure has become institutionalised as a formal funding policy; and (2) argue that, given this reality, more attention — and, for that matter, more ethical, legal and social issues (ELSI) research resources — should be focused on the complex issues associated with this trend. I suggest that many of the issues so often attributed to patents (eg, data withholding and a breakdown in collaborative relationships) are just as likely the result of commercialisation pressure. In fact, it is commercialisation pressure, as an umbrella phenomenon under which the patenting process sits, that deserves the harshest critique. It is this social phenomenon — not patents, which are merely a legal tool to facilitate commercialisation — that seems the more genuine threat to both scientific inquiry and, in the long term, the public good.
© 2011 Journal of Law, Information & Science and Faculty of Law, University of Tasmania.