Publishing purgatory

It’s no surprise that I pull funding from industry.  I knew who to contact, whether it be my old collaborators in my company, or other companies or subcontractors.  And having these contacts and understanding the shortcomings of their work and how to quantify and publish it helped me land a healthy amount of funding from industry.  In addition, the economy is relatively strong so they’re more willing to cut more checks.  And whether or not I agree with their methods, they have the most amount of money, and because of profit-motives, they have (arguably) the strongest motivation to get their devices into the clinic.  Likewise, I have bills to pay and research objectives I want to get done.  And students that work on my industry-funded projects get into the ears of those that do the hiring for when my students eventually leave.  It’s great on almost every front.  Almost.

Now, the way that the funding goes is like this: I reach out to someone in industry asking if they’re interesting in Project A.  I usually ask this over the phone after I’ve documented internally that I’m interested in it, then follow up with a formal email for protection-purposes.  I explain that I know that other people in the field would be interested, they just don’t have the resources to often do basic things.  I focus on that since most groups in industry won’t touch ‘basic’ research because it won’t turn a profit quickly.  Once they’re convinced I put together a short formal proposal and then the back and forth edits start.  Once we’ve settled on proper scope and method, I bring them in or I fly out and we have some formal brainstorming then the contract starts.  I have dealt with three types of contracts:

  1. Their company owns everything, however, we can publish immediately.  This comes with usually a 5-10x markup that goes to the school to forego the IP.
  2. We own everything, but this typically comes with a really small amount of money and only really applies to core-science.  The company is basically wanting an academic lab to corroborate results so they can point to the results for customers to get on board with their technologies.
  3. The company owns everything, and we can’t publish without their explicit permission from someone there at VP level or above.  This also comes with the 5-10x markup.

I’ve dealt with one of each of these.  The worst is number 3.  This usually comes with more money, but also more pressure.  And the students that work on this are held in a publishing purgatory.  The VP at the company I’m working with (not my past one) is habitually slow to sign paperwork.  So my students have a couple great papers to publish, but we have to wait for the VP to sign off, and a patent to get officially submitted.  This has been taking months.  Today I reached out to someone else in a separate reporting chain to get the VP and lawyers off their asses, so we’ll see how it works, but I definitely won’t be taking option 3 anymore.  I wanted more research money, but this headache isn’t worth it.


2 thoughts on “Publishing purgatory

  1. So if they’re in publishing purgatory how do your students graduate? I would expect this to out a huge damper on their graduating plans.


    • It’s really tough. The only option that has worked has been dissertation holds. Basically, each of the committee members have to sign an NDA with the company then the defense is closed-door and then the dissertation is on a hold from public release. Then when everything is signed from the company I can release the manuscript for review. By this point the student has graduated and I’m stuck doing revs while my student is off making more money than I make.


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