A new law could help professors at Pennsylvania’s state universities — as well as keeping down some costs.
The law passed Thursday lifts conflict of interest rules that kept faculty in the state university system from actively commercializing products based on their work.
Until now, the regulations required professors to leave their teaching jobs if they wanted to market products based on their research, said Kenn Marshall, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State System for Higher Education.
“Their hands are really tied because of their unique status as state employees and the restrictions that are placed on state employees,” Marshall said. “Other state employees aren’t in the business of conducting research and creating new products and inventions. That’s not what a typical state employee does; that is what a typical faculty member does.”
The law is long overdue, according to Daniel Hurley, director of state relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities
“Pennsylvania, I think, went way overboard trying to protect itself from conflict of interest,” Hurley said. “This will allow for a better competitive advantage and again, most importantly, to allow for these institutions to have the ability to raise money and to contain cost.”
The law will also allow establishment of “practical” doctoral programs at state schools in subjects such as medicine and science, and for schools to join universities outside Pennsylvania in bulk purchasing agreements.