Early in his undergraduate education, Dr. Sam M. decided to dedicate
his studies to finding a cure for a psychological disorder that seemed
to run in his family. As a biology major, he pursued independent research
projects and worked long hours as a lab assistant. He then enrolled
in a PhD program in psychopharmacology and is now completing a 3-year
postdoc in the neurosciences.
During his postdoc he worked on a promising compound he first discovered
during his graduate years. His work has gone well and he feels the time
is right to explore clinical applications. After more than a decade
of living on student and postdoc wages, he is also ready for a better
As Sam weighs the options of an academic versus an industry job, he
begins to wonder about who owns or will own the useful applications
of his work, if and when there are any. Will it be owned by:
- his graduate institution, where he first worked on the promising
- his postdoc institution, where he refined his ideas?
- his future academic or industry employer?
- himself, based on his hard work and innovative ideas?
- society, which funded parts of his education and most of his research?
Who has a legitimate interest in Sam’s work and when do his own
personal financial interests create conflict of interest?