The fallout from the bonus scandal at AIG could help bring about a change in federal research funding policy that would benefit taxpayers.
At least that's Dave Jensen's view, expressed on his widely respected blog, The California Stem Cell Report. He wrote:
"The bailout brouhaha creates a golden opportunity for Consumer Watchdog and like-minded organizations to enact share-the-wealth requirements for federal research grants. The logic is compelling. Venture capitalists demand their share of the booty when they fund individuals or businesses. Why shouldn't the government, especially in these difficult financial times."
Consumer Watchdog has long advocated that the public is entitled to a direct benefit from the fruits of taxpayer-funded research. We successfully pushed California's stem cell agency to require that if a product is developed because of research it funded with taxpayer money, a portion of the revenue generated goes back to the state.
The Bayh-Dole Act governing federally funded research has no such requirement. When President Obama lifted federal stem cell restrictions, Consumer Watchdog wrote the White House to say that the change offered an opportunity to reform federal policy and provide a direct payback.
I have suggested that California's rules could be a model for federal regulations. Jensen's analysis:
"A year ago, such a pitch would have died aborning. Today, given the scandals concerning AIG and other corporate failures, the political mood has changed and will change more – all in the direction that no one in the business community will like."
Such a change in the political mood is necessary if we're to restore economic equality in this country. We'll be working to ensure taxpayers get a fair deal with the federal research they are funding.