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Universities should begin making patents and other industrial and commercial research count toward promotion and tenure, in an effort to stimulate such research nationwide, argues a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. "There is a fundamental disconnect between technology transfer activities and incentives for faculty members in terms of merit raises, tenure and career advancement," Richard B. Marchase, co-author and vice president for research and economic development at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in a news release. "Beyond the monetary benefit of licensing, which is small in most cases, there is presently little to no benefit to a faculty member's merit raises, tenure and career advancement."
The paper builds on a 2012 report from the National Research Council and other groups saying that business and industry have "largely dismantled large corporate research laboratories that drove American industrial leadership," and which argues that research universities must "fill the gap." In the new paper, called "Changing the Academic Culture: Valuing Patents and Commercialization Toward Tenure and Career Advancement," the authors argue that filling the research gap will entail changing the university "rewards culture" to value not only large research grants but also professors' patents and other commercial activities. Co-author Eric Kaler, president of the University of Minnesota, notes that this kind of work should not replace but "add to" traditional means of assessing scholarly activity. The paper's lead author is Paul R. Sanberg, senior vice president for research and innovation at the University of South Florida and president of the National Academy of Inventors. An abstract is available here.