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Published May 6, 2014 | Supplemental Material + Published
Journal Article Open

Changing the academic culture: Valuing patents and commercialization toward tenure and career advancement


There is national and international recognition of the importance of innovation, technology transfer, and entrepreneurship for sustained economic revival. With the decline of industrial research laboratories in the United States, research universities are being asked to play a central role in our knowledge-centered economy by the technology transfer of their discoveries, innovations, and inventions. In response to this challenge, innovation ecologies at and around universities are starting to change. However, the change has been slow and limited. The authors believe this can be attributed partially to a lack of change in incentives for the central stakeholder, the faculty member. The authors have taken the position that universities should expand their criteria to treat patents, licensing, and commercialization activity by faculty as an important consideration for merit, tenure, and career advancement, along with publishing, teaching, and service. This position is placed in a historical context with a look at the history of tenure in the United States, patents, and licensing at universities, the current status of university tenure and career advancement processes, and models for the future.

Additional Information

© 2014 National Academy of Sciences. Freely available online through the PNAS open access option. Edited by David A. Weitz, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, and approved March 27, 2014 (received for review March 3, 2014). This paper is partly based on a panel at the 2013 Conference of the National Academy of Inventors. The authors thank Judy Lowry, Diana Vergara, Michelle Simha, and Keara Leach for their editorial assistance; Dr. Judy Genshaft at the University of South Florida; and our friends at the US Patent and Trademark Office. Author contributions: P.R.S., M.G., P.T.H., E.W.K., R.B.M., T.D.S., N.A., and S.S. wrote the paper. The authors declare no conflict of interest. This article is a PNAS Direct Submission. This article contains supporting information online at www.pnas.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1073/pnas.1404094111/-/DCSupplemental.

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Published - 6542.full.pdf

Supplemental Material - pnas.201404094SI.pdf


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