The University's Role

Bok Discusses Technology Transter

President Bok insisted this week that his 30-page annual report was more than a restatement of the University's decision last November not to exchange Harvard-owned patents for shares in a genetic engineering firm headed by a Faculty member.

Released to the public yesterday, the report cites the "real and severe" dangers to academic values caused by commercial partnerships between universities and professors and suggests several alternative ways to generate income for research and improve technological innovation.

But Bok added few new arguments to the ongoing debate on "technology transfer" and limited his proposals for the future to a general exhortation for improved use of patent licensing, consulting arrangements, and cooperative projects with corporations.

He charged the Faculty with the responsibility of reviewing professors' activities outside of the University and their use of graduate students in commercial projects, saying. "Only if the faculty care deeply enough about the university can we hope to contribute to the useful application of knowledge without eventually compromising our essential academic values."

Discussing the report on Thursday, Bok said he "was worried about the possibility that professors could involve graduate students in commercial work not related to the intellectual development of the student," but he added that "he was not aware of any significant problems existing."


Bok said he "is not concerned" that the Faculty Council decided this week to postpone its review of the University's conflict-of-interest guidelines.

Faculty members agreed that the Council is not trying to avoid pressure to tighten its rules limiting professors' activities outside Harvard.

"We put off the issue because we care about it so much, and there was no way to prepare our findings before the next Faculty meeting." Otto T. Solbrig, professor of Biology, said this week.