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CAUT Bulletin Archives

March 2001

Commercialization Conference

The National Graduate Council gears up to expose the dangers of corporate funding of university research. Dr. Nancy Olivieri will deliver the keynote address.

The National Graduate Council of the Canadian Federation of Students is gearing up for their Forum on Public-Private Partnerships in University Research to be held March 9 at McGill University. The conference, which is free to all faculty members, researchers, graduate students, and other interested parties, will feature three panels covering the Expert Panel on the Commercialization of University Research, intellectual property, and trends in federal funding.

The forum's keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Nancy Olivieri, of the University of Toronto. "In many ways, graduate students feel that the University of Toronto's treatment of Dr. Olivieri crystallizes the concerns that we have about the commercialization of our research," said Joel Duff, chairperson of the National Graduate Council. "Quite frankly, we really feel that we are seeing our research monopolized by industry. At the end of the day, it makes you wonder whom we are working for."

The forum is part of the council's 2000-2001 campaign, Public Research — No Strings Attached, to foster discussion on the challenges facing university research with its mandate to operate in the public interest.

"The campaign endeavours to arm graduate students and the university research community with a critical analysis of the highly political research environment in which we work," said council deputy chairperson Rick Telfer.

"Graduate students are extremely concerned that new federal funding for research is tied to partnerships. We need to critically examine how these (partnerships) might compromise the public interest."

According to the NGC's campaign platform, their concern is for the autonomy of Canadian universities and the promotion of academic freedom.

"Let's face it," said Duff, "the freedom to pursue knowledge is endangered by the push to put private interests ahead of the public interest. It's really a matter of the private sector attempting to define its special interests as the public interest."

The NGC is calling on the federal government to establish national standards to protect public research and to establish fair, equitable and democratic academic freedom and intellectual property policies across Canadian universities.

"This forum is a way for all of us who share an interest in university research to come together to discuss and debate some of those issues that are drastically reshaping our universities," said Duff.

"Our forum is aiming to be as representative as possible. We have panelists from the granting councils, CAUT, technology transfer, copyright law, and we have invited people who represent a broad range of interests. This is about bringing a research community, divided by the massive funding cuts of the 90s, back together to develop a clear vision for the future."

Registration for the forum is free and includes a complementary breakfast, lunch, dinner and reception. Registration forms are available at

NGC represents the 50,000 graduate student members of the Canadian Federation of Students. Campaign information is available at