Corporations vs. Research
The hegemony of capitalism leads to a denial of the existence of institutional arrangements outside of utilitarianism and the trade economy. Often, researchers are asked to justify their research as if they were aware of the results before they even started. In the business world, “selling the dream” is common practice, and delivery under expectations follows. When corporations take over public funding of research, obviously, they will put their Return On Investment (ROI) in the balance, and push towards utilitarian expectations of profit. With ROI on the horizon, research drifts downslope towards crystal ball reading and a monsters show.
When funding institutions require researchers to describe the social value of the output their research, what they mean indeed is whether this research will enable market growth, employment creation, etc. But when research is submitted to know in advance what it will produce, it is not research anymore.
Intellectual Production Racket
Data Gueule #63 explores the vicious circle of scientific publications, where scientists publish their findings gratis, to gain notoriety and visibility, necessary to get more funding, or simply to maintain existing funding. This racket organized by private publishers like Elsevier extends to so-called “Intellectual Property Rights” (IPR): the license “allows” readers to quote scientific papers up to 200 characters, just a bit more than a tweet. Of course you can choose to publish in open-access, for a fee that can go up to $5,000 per article.
French scientist Marin Darcos estimates that 90% of publicly funded research does not come back to the public. How scientific publishers managed to turn the normal process of peer review in science into a highly profitable walled garden reflects the banalization of the primacy of the trade economy beyond Economics, as a default filter applied to all institutional reading grids.
Institutional blockade also manifests in the requirements for obtaining funding: “social value”, institutional forms, preliminary access to market and funding capacity, specialized tasks and positions, and accountable production plans. All these are usually not available to researchers nor to small networks that are often divergent, exploratory, involving multiple skills from a variety of disciplines, unless they can count among them on someone who has the skills, inclination, time, and capacity to afford writing the grant proposals.