The Privatization of Research

Dan Vo By on February 19, 2017
Scott Pruitt has been confirmed to head the EPA. There is nothing really good to say about this for the EPA, and their efforts to lead the world in protecting our environment by limiting our carbon footprint.
The losers are anyone that cares for our environment. We can continue to deny the affects of global warming and emissions all we want, but virtually every scientist agrees that there is a man made effect that we are responsible for. Scientists and academias much smarter than I can attest to this. (Link for the interested: Union of Concerned Scientists)
Paying large sums for data isn’t something new, though. Data is at the very essence, the reason why we have as many million dollar app ideas that you see today. And while this isn’t personal information, this is relevant info, nevertheless.
Companies are willing to shell out large amounts of money for research that propagates their product. Research too suggests that there was no correlation between cigarettes and cancer. Research to suggest that eating fatty foods may not be as destructive to your body as previously believed. Research to draw any conclusion from any given data to fit any particular argument.
If you’re truly passionate about continuing to try and protect the environment, there may be some money in it too. Companies looking to draw on the favoritism of customers may lean on their unwavering support of making the world a better place. Figuring out how to use private funds of these companies to protect our environment could be profitable endeavors. Agencies that were once funded by tax dollars and made to be public entities can now operate as non-profits that are funded by concerned private citizens and companies.
While it may protect aspects of our natural resources, having to rely on the charity of a few as opposed to a right for anyone can come at a steep price. In 2011, Aaron Swartz, a founder of the popular site Reddit, was arrested for stealing and uploading academic articles from JSTOR on MIT’s database. He was charged with 11 counts of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and sentenced to 35 years with a one million dollar fine.
The punishment seems extremely harsh for someone who had taken academic journals, something that some say should remain a thing of open source as it serves a beneficial good for society. The level of prosecution that was involved in taking down Swartz was fierce, and ultimately he took his own life. Data is important, and some will do anything to protect their competitive edge.
Depending on your level of skepticism, the confirmation of Scott Pruitt may or may not destroy the world. What it will do however, is shift our idea of what research, information, and advancement is owned by and monetized by a few, or is it the collective good of every citizen?
Imagine if NASA ceased to continue to exist. Sure, we’d still have Space X, but our knowledge and exploration of the universe would come only at the benevolence of Elon Musk.