I’ve recently participated in the evaluation of proposals for a Spanish research funding program. To my huge surprise, one section of the evaluation form (worth 10%) asked to evaluate the patents the group behind the proposal had got during the last five years.
This is wrong on so many levels!! First, because it’s not clear at all what kind of (software) patents are possible (the wikipedia entry provides some basic info on the topic) and secondly, it’s even less clear (at least to me) that researchers should patent their work instead of openly sharing them (in the end, they are paid using government money).
I do believe that the evaluation of the research work of a group/individual should go beyond the list of published papers and include other aspects like developed tools (more on this in a future post) but I don’t think evaluating his/her patents is the way to go.
Let me clarify that this is not an “anti-patent” post at all. This post is an anti-patent evaluation until governments don’t give a clear policy on what researchers should do with the results of their work. Another issue is if society will be happy with these policies (we have already discussed the negative effects of government evaluation policies on this previous post: Be Honest. Curing cancer is not your primary goal).