DST regulations: lip service or real consultation?Tuesday, September 8, 2009 9:58
When the DST called for public comment to the proposed Regulations that will govern the Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research Bill that was signed into law last year, there was a general outcry from a number of research and academic institutions, as well as local and international activists and academics from within the A2K movement. The story was reported on by the media both locally and abroad. The opposition flagged the issue that greater consultation was needed before adoption of the Regulations.
Since the submission deadline, TACP, as one of the organisations who submitted commentary, has not had any feedback from the Department, or found accessible comment regarding the public commentary process and outcome. (TACP organised an open, online petition against the Regulations.) However, a public appearance by the Minister at the Innovation Hub in Pretoria where she opened the National Biotechnology Workshop in late July, seems to confirm that the Department is committed to passing the Regulations despite the alternative viewpoints offered by civil society. The fact that the criticisms raised – around how to manage the commercial imperative against public benefit; how and if a body such as the proposed IP office will hinder or enhance research process – seem to be implicitly accepted as uncontroversial issues makes one wonder about the consultation process.
Local and international academics, activists and researchers were committed to spending time drafting, talking, debating and considering how to put forward their concerns around the proposed Regulations. Yet how significant was the call for commentary to the passing of these Regulations? Was this simply a ticking of a box of requirements? We would really like to know.