Bringing the Marketplace into Science: On the Neoliberal Defense of the Commercialization of Scientific Research
The aim of this paper is to identify and evaluate the theoretical justification for the commercialization of science – particularly the form of commercialization that is currently prominent in the U.S. In the first part of the paper, I examine the arguments put forward by one of the most prominent early proponents of commercialization, George Keyworth II, who served as Presidential Science Advisor to Ronald Reagan and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from 1981 to 1985. An examination of Keyworth’s arguments reveals the profound role that neoliberal political and economic thought played in his defense of the commercialization of science. On his view, Reagan’s science and technology policy would stimulate creative research and economic growth by expanding the domain of voluntary exchange in which scientists operate – i.e., by removing the government-imposed barriers between scientific research and the marketplace. The result, he argued, would be to facilitate the flow of information between sectors that were previously cut off from one another, thereby encouraging the sharing of expertise, expediting the transfer of scientific research into marketable products, and ultimately, promoting social progress. In the second part of this paper, I argue that there are strong reasons to question this conclusion. These reasons concern the biasing effects of conflicts of interest, the inhibition of the free flow of information that results from the proliferation of patenting and licensing, and the restrictions on scientific freedom that result from greater corporate control over scientific decision making.
KeywordsTechnology Transfer Office Epistemic Standard Individual Creativity Financial Relationship Private Corporation
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