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A Patent, Too

An Australian minister's suggestion that academic science funding be tied to the number of registered patents has drawn criticism, ScienceInsider reports.

In a speech last week, Ian Macfarlane, the minister for industry, said that he wants to emphasize job and product creation, rather than the production of papers. "We may think about realigning block grants to commercial outcomes, and rewarding them to universities not on the basis of how many papers they've had published, but actually on the basis of how many patents they've had registered," he said, according to a transcript at the Australian Broadcasting Company.

"I think tying grants to patents is simply the wrong way to go," Les Field, the secretary for science policy at the Australian Academy of Science and a deputy vice chancellor at the University of New South Wales, also told the ABC radio program.

He noted that blue-sky research can lead to all sorts of innovations.

Similarly in an editorial at the Guardian, Australian Senator Kim Carr points out that CSIRO's research into radio astronomy eventually led to the development of Wi-Fi.

"If the government really wants to create jobs (other than for patent attorneys), providing incentives for researchers and their partners who are trying to commercialize inventions would be far more effective," Carr adds.

ScienceInsider notes that Macfarlane's ministry would likely have little to do with science funding changes as that is overseen by the education ministry, not the industry ministry.