Should Tech Transfer Involvement Affect Tenure?

In a report released today by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) Task Force of Tenure, Promotion, and Technology Transfer asked that public research universities consider faculty involvement in tech transfer activities when making tenure and promotion decisions. After all, universities consider research and publication in promotion and tenure decisions.

APLU qualified its suggestion through recommending, “Technology transfer activities should be an optional component of the review process, one that will be rewarded when present, but not seen as a requirement for everyone.”

The Task Force surveyed U.S. and Canadian public universities to see what they were currently doing in regards to technology transfer activities and promotions and tenure decisions. The Task Force found some consideration but not a standard procedure for incorporating it.


What This Could Mean for Technology Licensing

First, this is only a recommendation. This is not something that is being forced on the universities. Secondly, some universities currently take technology transfer contributions under consideration as a best practice.

This has become a larger issue due to the proposed reforms of patent law by Congress, which is trying to curb unethical and abusive behavior by patent assertion entities.

While the technology transfer activities of a university are already important from a financial perspective, if more universities adopt a review process that encompasses intellectual property licensing and commercialization contributions in advancement decisions, the professionals involved in this area may see a political shift in the university culture as well where their contributions would be recognized for the intellectual merit they deserve.

As it stands currently there is often a need to select between the research and publication route and the commercialization one. If those holding promotional powers at the university level begin to acknowledge tech transfer and commercialization efforts as beneficial as research and publications, technology transfer (and the universities’ intellectual property) may finally get a seat at the table and be recognized for the intellectual contributions they make, in addition to the financial ones.


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