Join us to Stop! the Regulations

The Minister of Science and Technology proposes to include a set of Regulations in the Publicly Financed Research and Development Act, section 17, that will result in dire consequences for the research sector in South Africa in particular and all South Africans in general, by stifling local innovation and access to knowledge.

These Regulations must be stopped! The Dept of Science and Technology invites comment by 28 May, 2009. However, the public have been given very little time to comment fully on these Regulations so we propose an extension as well as some initial changes.

What are the Regulations about?

In summary, the Regulations adopt the stance that publicly funded research should be seen as a ‘business deal’ with commercial interests and ownership as being paramount. The Regulations stipulate specific requirements that researchers need to adhere to when entering collaborative partnerships with international research consortia; and much of what they stipulate regarding ownership and commercialisation will be contrary to these international research consortia’s legal requirements. The Regulations also stipulate the creation of a State-run body that will process publicly funded research and patents, and in essence approval will need to be sought from this body for scientists when licensing the research, entering into international consortia partnerships, changing ownership (or disowning) or placing the research into the public domain.

Why should the Regulations be rejected?

The Regulations show a concerning misunderstanding of the objectives of publicly funded research by placing commercialisation as a primary driver of research.

The Regulations will restrict researchers’ freedom of expression and association by deeming it necessary for researchers to apply for permission to enter into partnership agreements with international research associations and consortia. The Act’s commercial regulatory requirements could also be in contradiction to that of international research associations or consortia, thus making it impossible to enter into such relationships.

The Regulations incorrectly define what the public domain is and how it should be interpreted.

In basic terms, the Regulations are unconstitutional, going against the freedoms that are explicitly stated in our South African constitution.

Andrew Rens, Legal Lead of Creative Commons, South Africa and Fellow at the Shuttleworth Foundation, cries foul, stating that in essence the Regulations are:

… unworkable, intending to funnel the entire research output of SA through a convoluted series of bureaucratic filters.

Eve Gray, who is an Honorary Research Associate in the Centre for Educational Technology at the University of Cape Town states on her blog, in response to these Regulations, that

… the Regulations (that are) designed to enforce – and ‘force’ is an appropriate word here – are some 30 years out of date and completely out of tune with the way research is being conducted in the world’s leading universities in the 21st century, with high levels of collaboration.

What can YOU do?

JOIN the TRIBE of like-minded people and organisations who actively oppose the regulations by:

  • SPREADING THE WORD so that citizens know how our rights (and that of our scientists) are being curtailed
  • Collaboratively DRAFTING a submission letter of protest to the Department of Science and Technology
  • Putting your SIGNATURE to the letter to show your solidarity and support against these regulations.

By spreading the word to your network of colleagues you can bring awareness of what these regulations can do to the bigger picture of empowerment, access to knowledge and innovation. Join the Stop! the Regulations Facebook group and invite your friends. We’ll keep you updated at this space.

By collaboratively drafting a submission letter you will be adding your one voice to many, enabling a powerful statement to be made. Because we believe in collaboration, openness and sharing, it seems fitting that we should collaboratively draft the letter to the DST. Mixedink is the ideal spot to draft this letter: it is a free cc-licensed platform that allows for collaboration, editing, note-making and even voting for the top submission. Our final letter will be licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution licence. Join us now to start commenting, putting forward ideas and critiqueing the mixedink letter entitled, “Comment on draft IP Rights from Publicly Financed R&D Regulations”.

  • NB NB NB: The document will be open for collaboration from now until 15 May 09 to EDIT, and 16th May 09 to RATE. Following this the final version will be put into an online petition for signature.

By putting your signature to the letter you are making a statement against this Act and its Regulations that do not take cognisance of the freedoms embedded in our constitution. Once we have a final drafted letter on the African Commons Project mixedink space, this will be put into a free online petition to which individuals and organisations can add their signatures.

  • NB NB NB: The final document will be put into Free Petition Online from 22 May 09 until 28 May 09 when it will then be sent to the Department of Science and Technology. Check back here for links to the url.

Proposed process at Department of Science and Technology regarding submissions

All the submissions will be considered in developing the regulations towards a final version and there may be Public hearings on the regulations where individuals and organisations will be welcome to make inputs in person.

The effect that submissions would have on the regulations will be judged according to any positive aspect that a particular submission would have on the regulations. Any submission that will improve the regulations for better will be taken into account.

The making of regulations is the prerogative of the Minister, and thus the final version will be as determined by the Minister, but definitely the comments made by the Public are taken into consideration.