Questioning Corporate Influence on Science: BP & Berkeley

BP (British Petroleum) has quietly inked a deal with UC Berkeley to give them $500 million dollars over the next 10 years. From East Bay Indymedia:

…The relationship between corporations and universities has increased greatly in recent years. Government funding of public universities, like the University of California, especially for non-military-related research, has been slashed while corporate-funded research has risen 350% since the early 1970s (according to former Harvard President Derrick Bok in his book Universities in the Marketplace).

The BP-Berkeley deal marks a leap in this whole process because of its size and scale. This one deal doubles the size of Berkeley’s corporate-sponsored research. Under the agreement, a new large building to house the institute would be built on campus and paid for by the state of California. The university would hire seven new faculty to work on the project. In addition, BP would bring up to 50 of its own scientists to the university who would teach classes, attend seminars, and work with graduate students, giving BP a lot of direct control over research.

At Berkeley (as well as many other colleges and universities) many professors came out of the 1960s, or have been influenced by the rebellion and questioning of that time. They see the deal with BP as part of a bad transformation of the university.

Professors and the Academic Senate are supposed to have significant input into the running of the university. However, during the university’s negotiations with BP there was no discussion with the faculty as a whole, no meeting with the Academic Senate, and no public forum. Instead, any voices that were potentially hostile to the deal were shut out of the discussion. [full text]

BP has gone out of its way to project an image to the public that it is an environmentally conscious company that wants to go “beyond petroleum.” However, as the above article details, only a tiny portion of its overall budget goes to alternative energy projects.

One thought on “Questioning Corporate Influence on Science: BP & Berkeley

  1. Let’s relate this to your post about Pharma paying off doctors. Do you think $500M might have some influence on the direction–or the results–of the research? Nah.

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