Science in Context


Governing Sincience: Patents and Public Sector Research

Brad Shermana1

a1 Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge and Department of Law, The London School of Economics and Political Science


while reconizing that public sector research has long been managed by a wide variety of practices and techniques, this paper concentrates on the increasingly important role that patents are playing in the management and regulation of public sector research. It argues that as a specific form of technology, patents play a significant and growing role in facilitating the management of the scientific object and can also be seen as a particular instance of governmentality. More specifically, it argues that patents have had an important impact on the culture and political ecomomy of science. In this sence patents can be seen not only as a legal regime that provides limited property rights over technical information but also as a sophisticated tool of discipline and control that is used to regulate and manage public sector research. The paper suggests that with the increasing use of patents as a means of governing science, we are witnessing the growing juridification of science, the intervention of the law into an arena it hitherto largely ignored.