27 July 2010

Confidentiality clauses and choices

There’s a worrying discussion of how BP has been offering contracts to faculty members doing research in the Gulf of Mexico... with confidentiality clauses. One of the most interesting aspects about the article by the American Association of University Professors president is that he argues that maybe professors shouldn’t be allowed to take those contracts, even if they wanted to (emphasis added):

The increasing impact of corporate funding on the integrity of faculty research is among the changes higher education must confront. The decision about whether to sign restrictive contracts is not simply a matter of individual choice. It has broad implications for higher education and for the society at large.

I’m not sure what Nelson has in mind here. Let’s say for the sake of argument that such restrictive confidentiality clauses are so corrosive to the research enterprise that that they should not be allowed. At what level do you set policy? At the level of professional societies? Institutional policies? State or federal legislation?

While I agree that the issue is important, I’m not sure whether it warrants anything other than professional disrepute.

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1 comment:

neuromusic said...

In the intellectual property domain, it seems that there is some policy precedence for contracts between researchers and individuals/institutions outside of the researcher's home institution. As a researcher, the university owns your data and intellectual property. It seems that a researcher entering into a contract with an external company which restricts the university's access to its own intellectual property (the work of the researcher) would be prohibited, right?