IP Outreach Research > IP Use and Awareness


Title: Intellectual Property Experiences in the United Kingdom Scientific Community
Author: Stephen Hansen, Jana Asher and Michael Kisielewski [American Association for the Advancement of Science]


Year: 2007


Subject/Type: IP Protection
Focus: Access to Information, Copyright, Patents
Country/Territory: United Kingdom
Objective: To examine the acquisition and creation of intellectual property (IP) in the scientific community, and the effect of IP protections on the conduct of scientific research.
Sample: 804 UK-based scientists/research professionals
Methodology: Web-based survey

Main Findings

27% of respondents reported having acquired protected intellectual property (IP) for use in their research in the last five years. In most cases acquired IP came either from industry (62%) or academia (24%). 40% classified their most recent acquisition as a research tool or input.

Overall, the most popular method of acquisition of IP was the use of exclusive licenses (used by 20% for their last request for protected IP). Purchase ranked second with 15%. Nonexclusive licenses ranked third with 14%. Confidentiality agreements were employed by 12%, and material transfer agreements (MTAs) by 10%. Academic respondents mostly used nonexclusive licenses and MTAs (21%), followed by exclusive licenses (13%). In industry, mostly exclusive licenses were used (21%), followed by confidentiality agreements (15%), purchases (14%), nonexclusive licenses (11%), and MTAs (5%).

Technology acquisition time was dependent on the method of transfer employed and the sector of employment from which the technology was acquired. 25% of respondents reported that they had experienced difficulties in attempting to acquire IP-protected technologies. Overall, academia reported more IP-acquisition problems than industry did. Difficulty in obtaining IP resulted in delayed research (37% of those experiencing difficulties), changing research (16%), and abandoning research (8%). The main reasons for changing/abandoning research were “overly complex licensing negotiations”, “breakdown of licensing negotiations”, and “royalties were too high”.

In total, 50% of predominantly industry respondents reported having created IP eligible for protection. The most-used method to protect IP was patents (used by 65%), followed by trade secrets (30%), and copyright (27%); informal protection methods were “not publishing at all” (24%), followed by “delayed publication” (23%), and by “withholding data/information” (22%).

According to the authors, these data suggest that IP-protected technologies remain relatively accessible to the broad scientific community, and not as constrained by IP protections as many had cautioned.

73% of respondents reported that their scientific work had been published, mostly in peer-reviewed journals. The most important motivations for publishing the results of scientific work were “to inform others” (91%), “to gain/justify research funding” (51%), “professional advancement” (43%), and “to gather feedback” (35%). Preventing others from acquiring IP protections did not appear to be a primordial motivation for publishing scientific work.

The decision as to how/where to publish depended on the following criteria: dissemination (71%), prestige (58%), and timeliness (29%). Just 13% retained copyrights to their most recent publication (57% did not). Only 4% had used alternative, open access licensing models. Generally, access to scientific literature was perceived to have become easier. Still, 22% of respondents reported difficulties in gaining access to scientific literature (65% did not). Difficulties in accessing copyrighted scientific literature resulted in delayed research, but only rarely in abandoning a research project.

Data from publicly funded sources was used by 50%, one fifth of which reported having experienced difficulties in obtaining such data. The most-cited problems experienced were substantial delays in the transfer of data and technical difficulties. These difficulties resulted in “some negative effects on research” (67%), “serious negative effects” (6%) or “no effects” (13%).

Interpreting these results, the authors suggest that the conduct of scientific research is not being hampered by IP protections in relation to scientific publishing. Still, the issue of access remains a possible cause for concern.

[Date Added: Nov 20, 2008 ]