A Crack in the Wall of Constellation Support?

The FYI series published online by the American Institute of Physics has been following the Congressional hearings on NASA’s budget and reactions to the agency’s plans to drop the underfunded Constellation program.  There is supposed to be some kind of Administration space event in April to try and mollify the Congressional opposition to canceling Constellation.  But as the author of today’s FYI piece notes, there has been a bit of softening in the position of at least one of the members of Congress who have finally gotten fed up with the treatment of Constellation.

“As the hearing concluded, an indication of perhaps how the dialogue has moved forward can be seen in the statements of Ranking Member Wolf. At the February hearing he told Director Holdren ‘I’m going to oppose what you are trying to do . . . I’m going to do everything I can to stop this.’ At this week’s hearing he asked Bolden to meet with a group of individuals to determine ‘where do we go from here.’ He spoke of a ‘spirit of reconciliation’ and his desire to resolve issues. Bolden replied ‘we will find a solution to this problem.'”

Since this change of plans has the approval of the President, and acknowledges the reality that whether or not Constellation moves forward, there would be job changes in the space force, I think Congressional resistance will mellow.  The members of Congress who have been fighting for Constellation have been losing that battle for a long time.  The Administration needs to give more details about what it wants to do, and how much it will cost, but that may come next month.  So the fight that I was expecting may not happen.  It remains to be seen if a truly sustainable plan will emerge.

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Some Modest Proposals on Academic Intellectual Property

Earlier this week I was sent a press release noting two proposals for an Academic Inventors Bill of Rights.  One comes from Dr. Renee Kaswan, a former academic researcher and the founder of IP Advocate, a non-profit trying to spread the word on how to navigate commercialization of academic research.  The other comes from Alan Bentley, Director of Commercialization at the Cleveland Clinic.  So the perspective behind these proposals is to push back against what is seen as an overly aggressive and/or mismanaged technology transfer process.

I’ve heard enough anecdotes to believe this perspective has merit, but I don’t want to have that debate here.  I’ll simply say that knowledge transfer, of which technology transfer is a major component, has many different tools and methods at hand to facilitate transfer.  Emphasis on any one particular tool to the diminishment of others seems to me to be bad policy.

I find both sets of proposals similar, and pretty reasonable.  They are as much a reminder of intellectual property rights as an assertion of those rights.  I do not expect widespread adoption by universities, but I think they present a good set of guidelines for academic researchers whose work could be patented as they approach employment with universities or academic research centers.