Keywords: public trust, patents, biotechnology research, biotechnology law, technology commercialisation
Commercialisation of biotechnology: public trust and research
The success of the biotechnology revolution depends on an array of interwoven factors, not the least of which is the protection, preservation and promotion of public trust in the science, the scientists and the regulators. This paper considers some of the areas in which the commercialisation of biotechnology research may affect public trust. The increasing involvement of the private sector in basic research and the need for the public sector to commercialise its research has resulted in a blurring of the divide between the two sectors. The expanding public and private partnerships are creating an elision between the two sectors. In biotechnology, knowledge itself has become commodified and subject to confidentiality agreements and patent protections. These trends are challenging the traditional science norms of universalism, collegiality, disinterestedness and organised scepticism. These trends may equally have a detrimental flow on effect in relation to public trust in science. This paper considers and emphasises the appropriate roles of regulation, public consultation and corporate social responsibility and benefit sharing in protecting and restoring the key factor of public trust.