Volume 93, Issue 20

October 1, 1999


Star's strategy angers papers

Commercialization raises debate

Bars prepare for Homecoming rush

Internet access quickens for students

Polls shouldn't be taken lightly

Program to improve cancer patient care


Caught on campus

Commercialization raises debate

By Nina Chiarelli
Gazette Staff

University research just got a little more interesting.

At a consultation session held this week at Western, an expert panel commissioned by the Federal Advisory Council on Science and Technology fielded questions about the impact of commercialization on university research.

There has been some debate over the issue recently, as universities and members of the private sector are looking to commercialize a budding industry, said Arnet Sheppard, media relations officer of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, an organization who's mandate is to invest money into university research.

"We're interested in innovation, people and discoveries," Sheppard said. "[Commercialization] is in the public's interest." He added the public expects research will be used and provide economic benefits.

Allan Heinicke, professor of mathematics at Western, said he still has reservations about commercializing university research. "What they're asking for is economic loyalty," he said.

Heinicke explained if universities start doing research funded or commissioned by the private sector, a lack of curiosity and interest driven research may occur, resulting in biased reports.

But Bill Bridger, Western's VP-research, said he thinks the idea of increasing the commercialization of university research is great. "I think it's wonderful. If somebody makes a discovery with commercial potential, then we'd like to see jobs and economic activity in Canada," he said.

Presently about 10 per cent of the research being done at Western is sponsored privately, Bridger said. "Many of the critics don't understand that to attend to that very small commercial fraction could mean a substantial increase in funding for research."

James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said he thinks commercialization comes with strings. "The most important gains have come from curiosity driven research," he said.

Turk said the CAUT was against the commercialization because it undermines the goals and purpose of university research.

"The purpose of university is the freedom to explore interest research," he said.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999