react at ix.netcom.com react at ix.netcom.com
Mon May 18 07:16:36 EST 1998

Teel Adams wrote:

> I am of the opinion, that you are seeing an overcompensation from
> government agencies and the Congress.  In the Republican's frenzy to cut
> funding,   most agencies have taken a more "user pays" strategy.
> Publications,  software,  even data,  are now sellable and sources of
> income.

Yes, I think that you are right.  That this is part of the
'privatization' trend is clear.  Be careful of your attributions please.

> Rather silly, really.  I prefer the old days when all government research
> and innovation was free to all.  Of course,  many incredibly useful
> government inventions were taken over by the private sector,   patented,
> and used to make huge amounts of money.  Bioremediation is a glaring
> example.

Yes, Xerox, the internet - examples aren't in short supply.  I am with
you on this.  Government research has a useful place to develop core
technologies which are too expensive or with too great a delay until
payoff for private industry to consider.  I think a return to (or
creation of) this use of the lab system should be part of a platform
carried by a major political party.

> I would think,  the compromise would be to have enlightened congressmen
> that fund research accordingly,  and then make the research free and
> available, but also unpatentable.

That's an interesting alternative.  However, if there is one lesson that
we should attend to it is that enlightened Congressmen are a rare and
underpowered breed.  Greater change might be necessary to the system in
order to ensure that such creatures predominate.  If you can think of a
way to do this, I would like to hear it.

> I do know,  that some of my A.I algorythms that I designed for detecting
> Medical fraud, were latter used on commercial systems,  and I don't get
> squat in royalties.  Not even a Christmas card.

Sorry to hear it, but that doesn't surprise me at all after working with
some university research departments.  Graduate students in particular
often don't get any credit at all.  I was fortunate in that my advisor
did not insist on primary authorship of my publications, and also that
the work I was doing was in the nature of basic research without
immediate patent potential.  I did discuss this with a student at
Harvard who asked me for a formula to describe the curve of a fixed-edge
elastic circular membrane when a volume fluid with a known viscosity and
pressure was injected between it and the substrate.  He was completely
unaware that the work was leading to a patentable technology and he,
from the sound of it, would see none of the royalty.  I initially
irritated him rather badly (as I tend to do) by asking him to pay me for
the information.  While explaining why I had done so, it became apparent
to him what was going on.

If it's any consolation, ideas tend to be stolen around government labs
and industrial research institutions as well.


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