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Title: Standing on the shoulders of giants? : a study of scientists' engagement with patent information
Author: Hescott, Anna
ISNI:       0000 0004 5356 3675
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2014
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The patent system is regularly justified on a ‘social contract’ model. This is based, in part, on the concept that the system diffuses information which informs future innovation. The patenting of basic biological materials, particularly when ensuing from research undertaken in universities, is the subject of extensive debate. However, there has been limited study of the scientists involved and of the diffusion of information through the patent system. This thesis attempts to address this gap in knowledge by investigating the engagement of academic biological and stem cell scientists working in the United Kingdom (UK) with patent information. The context in which these scientists work is examined by tracing the multifactorial international and national drivers that have contributed to the increased patenting of biological research in universities. These include: funding conditions requiring the protection of intellectual property; funding models promoting public-private partnerships; guidelines for the management of intellectual property in universities; and the expansion of patentable subject matter to include basic biological materials. The empirical study investigates the extent to which scientific knowledge is diffused through the patent system in the case of biological and stem cell science in the UK. These fields have been pinpointed as ‘great hopes’ for the future both in terms of therapeutic applications and economic return. The results of an empirical study (a survey of 120 academic biological scientists together with interviews with, and structured observations of, 16 stem cell scientists) indicate that the diffusion of scientific information through the patent system is limited. A number of barriers are identified including scientists’ limited awareness of patents; patchy knowledge of the mechanics of the patent system; problems inherent in patent databases; and scientists’ perceptions of patent information. Viewed within the context provided, these findings lead to a number of assumptions central to science- and patent-policy to be questioned, particularly that the patent system disseminates information which ‘teaches’ downstream innovators.
Supervisor: Aurora, Plomer Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available