In tech transfer there are a lot of gray areas. From patent arguments to grant money expenditures, universities are being watched closer and closer and those who are caught on the wrong side of the ethics questions are seeing stiff penalties inflicted upon them, their department, and/or their research. As a technology transfer professional how can you ensure everyone is acting with the utmost ethical intentions? Here are a few suggestions on how to make ethics in technology a priority.
Ensuring Ethics in Technology Transfer
Technology transfer professionals aren’t parents of the people they work for and ensuring researchers, financiers, and department employees make the most ethical decision every time isn’t possible. But these suggestions will help you shine a mirror onto the department and sometimes that’s all it takes to get people to make the right choice.
Reiterate the Details
Researchers must read the fine print, and you can’t read it for them, but making sure you enumerate any issues that could potentially raise a red flag to them will (hopefully) keep them from coming back and claiming they were unaware of that stipulation. For some, ethics in technology transfer is born more from a lack of knowledge than greed so make sure everyone understands the fine print, even if you have to highlight it for them.
You can also place a summary of points in the email you use to forward the document to them or attach a memo if you’re sending a paper copy.
Quickly Correct Unwanted Behavior
If someone acts unethically, swiftly addressing the issues is best. What appears to be unethical behavior could be a misunderstanding of protocol but addressing it quickly will get you to the heart of the matter and show everyone else that ethics are a priority.
Represent Well and Proudly
Make sure everyone involved in a commercialization project understands that they represent your institution. If there’s even the appearance of unethical behavior it can affect the university’s reputation and ability to receive future grants and financial contributions. Your organization’s history and reputation are sizable but it doesn’t take much to dismantle something that took decades or centuries to build.
Reflect a Commitment to the Greater Good
It’s difficult sometimes when large amounts of money are at stake to remember that tech transfer employees are performing a service for the larger world, in addition to representing their research institution. When money is involved, people sometimes become combative and lose sight of the end goal – bringing this technology to the world. Keeping the end goal in mind helps guide the decision-making process and may ward off questionable decisions.
How does your department keep the focus on ethical behavior and adhere to the highest standards? Share your suggestions below: