Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 1021–1031 | Cite as

AFHVS 2017 presidential address

The purpose-driven university: the role of university research in the era of science commercialization
  • Leland L. Glenna


As efforts to commercialize university research outputs continue, critics charge that universities and university scientists are failing to live up to their public-interest purpose. In this paper, I discuss the distinctions between public-interest and private-interest research institutions and how commercialization of university science may be undermining the public interest. I then use Jürgen Habermas’s concept of communicative action as the foundation for efforts to establish public spaces for ethical deliberation among scientists and university administrators. Such ethical deliberation is necessary to facilitate discussion on whether public-interest science should be the research university’s primary purpose and what institutional rules and resources are needed to honor that purpose.


Public research Commercial science Public interest Food and agricultural research and development 



Thank you to Lisa Heldke, William Lacy, Larry Busch, David Ervin, Rick Welsh, Jonathan Marks, Robert Chiles, Don Thompson, Raymond Jussaume, to participants in Penn State’s 2017 Social Thought Program, and to participants in the 2017 Trans-Atlantic Rural Research Network (especially Ian Merrell and Siobhan Maderson) for valuable feedback and insights on various drafts of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and EducationPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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