Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/03/2004 01:38 PM Senate HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
         HB 282-UNIVERSITY EMPLOYEE RESEARCH CONTRACTS                                                                      
MR.  JIM POUND,  Chief  of Staff  for  Representative Hugh  Fate,                                                               
provided the following sponsor statement  on behalf of the bill's                                                               
      HB 282 is language that will allow our university to                                                                      
     compete in the research and development area.  Across                                                                      
     the nation,  universities have moved toward  a research                                                                    
     role  as  a  way  of supplementing  the  high  cost  of                                                                    
     education.      This   valuable   research   has   been                                                                    
     responsible  for inventions  and innovations  that have                                                                    
     moved  into the  private sector  and ultimately  made a                                                                    
     profit.  Our university  system is involved in research                                                                    
     but seldom  development because of a  lack of financial                                                                    
     incentives  based on  Alaska's Executive  Branch Ethics                                                                    
     In particular:                                                                                                             
     AS  39.52.010.   Declaration  of   policy,  [(a)(2)](A)                                                                    
     discourage those officers from  acting upon personal or                                                                    
     financial interests in the  performance of their public                                                                    
     AS 39.52.170.   Outside  employment restricted.   (a) A                                                                    
     public employee  may not render  services to  benefit a                                                                    
     personal or  financial interest or engage  in or accept                                                                    
     employment  outside  the  agency,  which  the  employee                                                                    
     HB  282 will  give the  president of  the university  a                                                                    
     recruiting tool that  he currently does not  have.  He,                                                                    
     or  in the  future, she  will be  able to  negotiate an                                                                    
     intellectual property  agreement with a  researcher who                                                                    
     could  then  develop  a product  that  is  commercially                                                                    
     viable.   Based on  those negotiations,  the researcher                                                                    
     and the university could  both financially benefit from                                                                    
     that     commercial     enterprise    through     sale,                                                                    
     entrepreneurial  activities  -  or  better  yet  -  the                                                                    
     development of a new industry in the state.                                                                                
     The agreement  would allow  the researcher  to continue                                                                    
     advancing   the  work,   which  helps   maintain  staff                                                                    
     stability at  the university.   With the passage  of HB
     282 we will be able to  open a new door, one that could                                                                    
     mean  a quality  staff working  on projects  that could                                                                    
     bring  new ideas,  industry and  additional non-general                                                                    
     fund dollars to the University of Alaska.                                                                                  
CHAIR DYSON asked how this  might negatively or positively affect                                                               
education. He  referenced paragraph two of  the sponsor statement                                                               
that  states, "Nearly  57 percent  of all  research conducted  in                                                               
Alaska is  on one  of the University's  campuses."   He wondered,                                                               
"How the heck would you know that?"                                                                                             
MR. POUND responded  that these numbers were  from the University                                                               
[of Alaska]; this was from a  recent audit done on the university                                                               
- from the web page.                                                                                                            
CHAIR DYSON said he questions how  "all the research going on" is                                                               
known, particularly research that is not government-related.                                                                    
SENATOR GREEN commented that she  wasn't terribly comfortable and                                                               
suggested  that perhaps  this was  because of  the open  language                                                               
regarding  contracts, or  that "the  development of  intellectual                                                               
property" had  a meaning that  she didn't know about,  or perhaps                                                               
it  had  to  do  with  the product,  or  the  use  of  university                                                               
facilities.  She  commented that a person has the  ability to use                                                               
university facilities  for personal  gain without  the university                                                               
being the beneficiary.                                                                                                          
CHAIR  DYSON explained  what he  thought this  accomplishes.   He                                                               
said  in the  engineering profession,  it's very  common for  the                                                               
terms of an employer to  indicate that "any patents or copyrights                                                               
that you  come up with  during the  term of your  employment that                                                               
are in any  way related to your job, become  the property of your                                                               
SENATOR GREEN said she was working from that premise.                                                                           
CHAIR DYSON  continued that he  suspected that if  the university                                                               
wanted to  recruit someone  very talented  in a  particular area,                                                               
the person  would say, "I'd like  to be working in  your facility                                                               
and I'd like to be teaching  at your campus, but here's the deal.                                                               
A whole bunch of what I've  been working on and thinking about is                                                               
liable  to result  in something  that would  be very  valuable to                                                               
either publish or  develop commercially.  Can we work  out a deal                                                               
so that  I can do  research and conduct  a teaching that  will be                                                               
valuable to education and the  university's mission and still not                                                               
preclude myself from making money  off of stuff I've already been                                                               
working on and would probably be  continuing to work around."  He                                                               
said  this legislation  allows the  administration  to then  say,                                                               
"All right.   Let's pre-agree on something here in  the form of a                                                               
contract to do that."  He asked if this was correct.                                                                            
MR. POUND responded this was correct.   He said the other side of                                                               
this  is that  there is  research and  development at  university                                                               
campuses and  it gets to a  point where there's a  better deal at                                                               
another university or  somewhere else and a  person takes his/her                                                               
research, goes  to another university, and  negotiates a contract                                                               
for intellectual property.  That has happened.                                                                                  
CHAIR  DYSON asked  if  under existing  law,  the University  [of                                                               
Alaska] and  faculty members are  currently unable to work  out a                                                               
mutually acceptable agreement.                                                                                                  
MR. POUND said this was  correct because the university's faculty                                                               
and researchers  are under the  [Alaska Executive  Branch] Ethics                                                               
SENATOR GREEN  commented that currently  there is  no prohibition                                                               
for  the  individual  to  leave  with  the  information  and  the                                                               
property of the university.                                                                                                     
MR.  POUND said  he  understood  that this  is  how it  currently                                                               
works.   An individual has  the ability to take  that information                                                               
with him/her.                                                                                                                   
SENATOR GREEN  said, "I  think they would  still have  that, even                                                               
with this."                                                                                                                     
MR. POUND offered that there would  be an incentive to remain and                                                               
continue to publish,  copyright, and patent at  the university as                                                               
opposed to going  somewhere else.  He added that  this was fairly                                                               
common even at state schools.   He referred to information in the                                                               
committee  packet and  noted that  "intellectual property  is now                                                               
being used."                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GREEN asked if anybody else would be testifying today.                                                                  
CHAIR DYSON  indicated that there  was no further testimony.   He                                                               
said he would hold the bill over if she'd like.                                                                                 
SENATOR GREEN said she'd appreciate that.                                                                                       
CHAIR DYSON commented  that the back-up materials on  HB 282 were                                                               
good.   He said the bill  would be scheduled for  Monday [3/8/04]                                                               
unless Senator Green needed additional time.                                                                                    
There being  no further  business to  come before  the committee,                                                               
CHAIR  DYSON adjourned  the Senate  Health, Education  and Social                                                               
Services Standing committee meeting at 1:59 p.m.                                                                                

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