Corporate Sponsorship Problematic, Review Finds

By Bradley, Gwendolyn | Academe, January/February 2005 | Go to article overview

Corporate Sponsorship Problematic, Review Finds


Bradley, Gwendolyn, Academe


An external review of a controversial five-year $25 million corporate sponsorship agreement between the University of California, Berkeley, and a biotechnology company found that universities should avoid such arrangements. The review, which was conducted by ten scholars from Michigan State University, was initially requested by Berkeley's academic senate.

The deal between Berkeley and Novartis (now Syngenta), which ended in 2003, was unusual in that it involved an entire department of the university. Novartis provided the university's Department of Plant and Microbial Biology with research funding and access to data, expertise, and equipment. In exchange, the company received first rights to license inventions resulting from the department's research. Supporters of the agreement hoped that the influx of money would dramatically stimulate research and increase other research support, while detractors feared that it would threaten academic freedom and influence faculty research topics.

While the review found that neither the best hopes nor the worst fears had come to pass, it faulted Berkeley on several fronts. …

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Corporate Sponsorship Problematic, Review Finds
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