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All About the Benjamins?

While some politicians say too much money is being spent on scientific research, others say scientific innovation will be what brings the world out of the deep recession it's currently wallowing in. However, says University of Alberta professor Timothy Caulfield in an opinion column for The Scientist, the push to commercialize may be damaging to the scientific process. "Of course, it would be naive to suppose that there was ever a time when the social forces that drive research have been totally pure," Caulfield says. "Such social forces and political agendas have resulted in significant scientific progress in a wide range of fields. [But despite] historical examples of goal-oriented research, the current commercialization pressure still feels exceptional. It has a systemic quality." The push to commercialize isn't coming on a case-by-case basis anymore, but has become the prevailing "ethos" of the research enterprise, he adds.

It's still unclear what the impact of this pressure to commercialize will be, Caulfield says. But, he adds, "There is a growing body of research that highlights the potential challenges, including the possibility that this pressure could reduce collaborative behavior, thus undermining scientific progress, and contribute to the premature application of technologies, as may already be happening in the spheres of stem cells and genetic research."

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