Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/03/2004 01:38 PM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 sponsor: 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 Act. 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 responsibilities; 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 serves... 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 employer." 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 Act. 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.