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Commercialism in Scientific Research

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Encyclopedia of Global Bioethics
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Abstract

Commercialism has become almost synonymous with an overemphasis on maximizing profit. In a highly competitive world, bioscientific companies invariably seek patent protection to safeguard their intellectual property, recoup investment, and achieve a profitable return. Such businesses are keen to exploit the discoveries of scientific research for commercial advantage and profit and progressively look more and more toward academic science to enhance or extend in-house capability.

The relationship between industry and academia can be mutually advantageous, but there may also be conflicts of interest and ethical concerns. While academic science is conducted in an atmosphere of openness, both to advance knowledge and career and to permit scrutiny and independent validation, the business world is traditionally highly secretive, particularly regarding research programs and company “know-how.” Big Pharma and associated companies have a vested interest in the positive outcome of clinical and toxicological studies that support product registration and sales, and their research programs are also inclined to neglect “rare” diseases or those predominantly affecting poorer countries. Scientists in the universities should be scrupulously aware of the ethical challenges endemic in the business world and not solely the opportunities that relationships with commerce may introduce. While vigilance to prevent deleterious influences is essential and ongoing, there are opportunities for the universities not only to contribute more directly and more urgently to the development of new medicines but also to influence the selection of therapeutic disease topics for research (specific demographic population, disease, or health issue). Closer links between universities and commerce to improve equitable access to medicines globally, perhaps through a system of open licenses, would contribute markedly to the global common good.

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Correspondence to David Badcott .

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Badcott, D. (2016). Commercialism in Scientific Research. In: ten Have, H. (eds) Encyclopedia of Global Bioethics. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-09483-0_100

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