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CAUT Bulletin Archives

March 2000

Private Funding Impacts Research Integrity

Researchers need to ensure their work benefits the public good and not the bottom line of corporations.

Faculty need to critically reexamine and resist the growing links between universities and private industry, participants at a two-day conference examining the increasing corporate influence over Canada's colleges and universities heard in March.

The Winnipeg conference, organized by the Manitoba Organiza tion of Faculty Associations, drew more than 100 university teachers, researchers, students and members of the local community concerned about the impact of private funding on academic freedom and research integrity.

"For the past decade, the federal government has aggressively encouraged closer ties between university researchers and industry," noted Robert Chernomas, president of MOFA. "Ottawa has cut research grants while developing new programs like the Canada Foundation for Innovation which require researchers to seek out partnerships with corporations."

Chernomas noted that the most recent federal budget contained no new money for the granting council while enriching the coffers of the CFI by $900 million, and therefore furthering the "ongoing privatization of Canada's public research program."

Organizers say the idea for the conference was sparked last year when biotechnology giant Monsanto Corporation reached a deal with the University of Manitoba to construct a multimillion dollar crop development research facility on campus.

Speakers warned that the presence of Monsanto, which produces controversial pharmaceutical products, herbicides and genetically engineered crops, could spell serious consequences for university researchers.

"I studied my entire life to reach the pinnacle of my profession," remarked Martha Crouch, a plant biologist from Indiana. "And I consulted with corporations interested in my work. Then one day I found out the scientific research I was doing had created the roadmap for these corporations to apply my results for profit, and in the process to destroy large parts of the tropical rainforest."

Crouch has since quit doing her research because she thinks it can no longer be done ethically.

Claire Polster, from the University of Regina, told those attending the wrap-up session of the conference that university researchers need to take steps to ensure that their work benefits "the broad public interest, and not the bottom line of corporations."