Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Choosing a Supervisor, part 7

11. Attitude toward IP and Technology Transfer
Some researchers focus entirely on "pure" research, where one follows the research to its very end, damn the consequences or application. Others enjoy "applied" research, where the use and utility of the research is under direct consideration, and often guides, and sometimes even terminates, the work. These agenda extremes are extremely valuable, and we perform both in my research group.
But for research to see the light of day---for it to be in the hands of governments, companies or, dare I say it, the "public," research needs a evangelist, a support network, and a trusted base of experts. This is where those dreaded words, to some, like "spin-offs," "licensing," "copyright," "trademark," "patent," "lawyer," "venture capitalist," and more come to the fore.
What is your, and your potential supervisor's attitude toward Intellectual Property (IP), both with regards to the law and the state of practice, and what are your attitudes toward Technology Transfer (i.e., moving research from a lab to a real company)? Should research be publicly funded, open, and available to all immediately, whatever its use, utility, value, or impact? Should research be co-financed by public or private corporations, with explicit commercialization aims? Something in-between?
Does your supervisor know the state of software patents in the EU? Process patents in the USA? How and when to conduct a patent search? How to write, a better yet, obtain patent from the USPTO? Do they know how copyright law impacts scientific writing? Programming? Do they know when to choose a GPL, a BSD, or an X11-style license, and why?
Does your supervisor sit on any corporate boards? Are they a founder of a startup? Is that company still running? Did it raise a significant amount of capital? Attract a following? Make an impact? Are you interested in someday commercializing research?
Does any of this matter to you at all? If not, why not?

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