Private companies have been buying research from public universities, or have the public universities been selling research? Some universities, like Texas A&M, stand behind the decision to accept corporate money. Just because the funding may be accepted open-palmed by universities doesn’t make corporate-funded university research a good idea. Universities are making a deal with the devil.
As federal funding for public university research steadily tapered off since 1970, corporate investment in research has shot upward 250 percent, bringing the tally to $2.4 billion since 1985. That’s not all. The federal government may possibly pull $8.6 billion right out from under the universities within the year. A crippling loss that could turn universities into Oliver Twist begging “please sir, I want some more” from none other than the likes of BP, Chevron, and other major oil companies.
BP has already made a ten-year agreement to the tune of $500 million back in 2007 with the University of Illinois and UC Berkeley, which is no stranger to private investors and has been receiving private money since 2002. As a result, suspicious things have transpired as result of this relationship. After the busted BP well was sealed, Terry Hazen, a UC Berkeley ecologist, claimed to have found a microorganism that was eradicating the oil plumes. What the article containing this research didn’t disclose was that BP funded the research, essentially making it BP’s research.
UC Berkeley professor of microbial ecology Ignacio Chapela called shenanigans on the whole endeavor saying that “when people read the Science report, they thought they were reading a Berkeley professor’s research.”
A few years ago, Texas A&M University partnered with the Chevron Corporation for $5.2 million, contracting the school to do biofuel research. An investigator believes that this partnership will give the companies more free rein over what work the universities do, thus usurping a certain amount of autonomy from the school.
Granted, the federal government has taken away a staggering amount of money from universities and they are the ones being approached by oil companies, and, as a quick fix, it might work. But how long can a Band-Aid hold a severed jugular? These schools need to be weary of what the future may hold for them should they continue making deals with savage corporations. And when are the big companies ever satisfied? They always want more, eventually.
Corporations don’t invest their money without expecting some kind of return.
Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.