A Deflationary, Neo-Mertonian Critique of Academic Patenting

  • Hans RadderEmail author


Since the 1980s, the commercialization of academic science has strongly increased. To be sure, science at large has always included research primarily carried out for its economic benefit, especially since the second half of the nineteenth century. Yet, the large-scale commercialization of academic science is a more recent phenomenon. In the course of the past decade, this phenomenon has been explored and a variety of studies have become available. Assessments of the rise of entrepreneurial academia differ sharply. On the one hand, it is welcomed and sometimes even seen as a necessary step in the history of academic institutions (see Gibbons et al. 1994; Etzkowitz 2004). On the other hand, the problematic consequences of commercialized academic science are also widely discussed and increasingly acknowledged (Shulman 1999; Bok 2003; Krimsky 2003; Radder 2003; Healy 2006; Resnik 2007).

In response to these problems, universities, research institutes and science policy organizations have adopted a variety of normative codes of good scientific conduct (see Kourany 2008). Almost invariably, these codes are based on, or derived from, the social ethos of science formulated by Robert K. Merton in 1942. The aim of this paper is to find out to what extent a Mertonian ethos can still be useful in the present context of a strongly commercialized science. The discussion will be focused on the strongly increased practices of the patenting of the results of publicly funded research institutions.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.VU University AmsterdamAmsterdamNetherland

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