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?
The Act in its entirety can be read here. But look at a reader-friendly version here.
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. Read the rest of this entry »