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Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 19:06 GMT 20:06 UK
Nobel scientist criticises university plan
Senate House, Cambridge
The issue has been debated at Cambridge
Nobel Prizewinner Sir John Sulston has criticised Cambridge University plans to take control of the ownership of the ideas of its staff.

Sir John, who was awarded a Nobel Prize on 7 October for his work on understanding cells, criticised the proposal because it could "easily lead to loss of academic freedom in future".

The university proposal "asserts ownership of all intellectual property generated by its (the university's) employees".

It was debated at a meeting of academics on Tuesday.


What is the purpose of a great university if not to protect those freedoms?

Sir John Sulston

In a statement read to the meeting, Sir John, who could not attend the meeting himself, said: "We live in times when all intellectual freedoms are being challenged and eroded.

"What is the purpose of a great university if not to protect those freedoms?"

The formal debate by university academics, called the Discussion, is due to continue next week.

After the Discussion a vote on the proposals by University staff is likely to be taken by the end of the year.

Sir John Sulston
Sir John Sulston fears the loss of freedoms

Professor Tony Minson, chair of the school of biological sciences, who supports the proposal, told the meeting that the plan is to give the University "transparent, fair and defendable practices with respect to intellectual property rights".

Dr Mike Clark, a committee member of the Campaign for Cambridge Freedoms, told BBC News Online he was pleased to have the support of Sir John.

Liberal rules

Dr Clark, of the University's pathology department, believes the growth of hi-tech businesses in the area surrounding Cambridge, which has become known as "Silicon Fen", is due to the liberal rules of the University.

"This change would slam the door on this. The process of development (of research) would become very bureaucratic," he said.

The University's Vice-Chancellor Sir Alec Broers had earlier told the BBC: "The University has a right to a share because I think there are very few true individuals.

"Most people have to rely on others and if they go off on their own that is a rather selfish thing to do."


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See also:

15 Oct 02 | England
26 Sep 02 | England
27 Aug 02 | Education
02 Nov 01 | Education
07 Feb 02 | Education
30 Jan 01 | Education
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