The changing role of patents and publishing in basic and applied modes of organised research
Organized research activity is often characterized as a tale of two cultures: the fundamental or basic science of academia as against the applied, problem-solving R&D of industry. Although the two cultures have certainly never been as isolated from each other as the label ‘pure science’ would suggest, they have traditionally demonstrated fundamental qualitative differences. An archetypical conception portrays academic and industrial modes of research as essentially different cultures: they differ in what they research, how they do so and why.The most pronounced difference however is associated with the question of motivation: it involves the way the two cultures treat their results. In this environment, the predominant rule has been that academic science treats its important results by publishing, industrial R&D basically either through secrecy or (apparently increasingly) through patenting. In this, the logic of patenting (direct and indirect costs, patentability requirements, etc) and that of publishing (peer-reviews etc) have reinforced the cultural disposition. One symptomatic result of this state is that patents and bibliometrics have become attached as ‘indicators’ for the respective fields.However, the last 20-30 years have witnessed to a mounting tendency for the two roles to intermingle: patents are being sought and issued to academics while companies are publishing in journals. In addition, evidence in each has attested to greater collaborations between the two spheres. The traditional boundaries are thus being redrawn for these very much separate proxies associated with the two main directions organized research activities take. The purpose of this report is to explore the changing roles publication and patenting play for the way applied and basic research treat their results. It explores generally how the use of the bibliometric- and patent-based proxies or indicators is changing to describe the changing research environment and what difficulties these uses can involve. Before focusing first on bibliometrics and then on patenting, several relevant conceptual and practical aspects of the changing research environment will be discussed.
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