INDEPENDENT NEWS

Research freedom threatened by commercialisation

Published: Thu 13 Apr 2000 04:26 PM


A report on academic freedom in New Zealand, commissioned by the Association of University Staff (AUS), sees potential conflict between principles of academic freedom and pressures to get commercial funding for research.
Canadian Higher Education expert, Dr Donald Savage, wrote the report following an extensive visit to New Zealand in 1999. The full report is being published by Dunmore Press and will be available in June.
Dr Savage notes that universities must have policies which ensure that research contracts between universities and businesses are open contracts, which do not set up conflicts of interest and do not inhibit research in social, environmental and health concerns.
"Universities should reject contracts that have inappropriate strings attached," he stated.
AUS National President, Neville Blampied, has welcomed these recommendations.
"University staff have always recognised that there is a legitimate place for commercially-sponsored research within universities and we welcome the Government’s statement that increasing private investment in research is a priority.
“Any restrictions on free publication of results, however, must be very carefully controlled and monitored, because they involve restrictions on academic freedom and may be contrary to the public interest," Neville Blampied said.
"Dr Savage’s report draws attention to some very disturbing possible threats to academic freedom. These include the possibility that private research sponsors may try to prevent researchers from doing further research which may reveal contradictory results, and prevent university researchers from speaking out where their research reveals threats to public health or wellbeing."
"The growth and vitality of a knowledge society is closely linked to free and rapid sharing of information. AUS will work vigorously to ensure that that continues to be true within the New Zealand university research community" he said.
Neville M Blampied
National President
Tel: (03) 364 2199 (wk) (03) 332 7160 (hm) 021 680 475

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