Patent or publish? - University researcher's choice between traditional and commercial research outcomes

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration


University productivity, Traditional research, Patent, Bayh-Dole Act, Triple-Helix model, Commercial research

Subject Categories

Public Administration | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social and Behavioral Sciences


A series of technology transfer policies formalized the trend of universities involving in commercial activities. The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, for example, allows universities to patent federally funded research and retain the licensing benefit. The last thirty years have seen a dramatic increase in university granted patents. However, there is no comprehensive causal-effect model to explain why academia produces more patents and what possible consequences university patenting may bring to academia.

As an organization full of highly autonomous individuals, a university's patenting behavior could not be fully understood without clearly studying researchers' reaction to policy interventions and institutional changes on campus. Focusing on individual researchers, this research sheds light on two questions: What are the influential factors that stimulate individual researchers to patent? And will researchers' patenting activities harm their publication production?

Final dataset combines faculty curriculum vita data, US patent data and survey data from university technology transfer offices to check influences from individual, university, and societal levels on researchers' productivity choice. The dataset contains information of 664 faculties' productivity within the time window between 1963 and 1999. Due to the special statistical features of the data, there is no perfect economic model for the estimation, six models are tested and the strength and weakness are discussed for each of them.

Regression results show co-productive features between publication and patent in the short term. But in the long run, faculty members with more publications build stronger resistance to patenting. The strongest factor fostering academic patenting is researchers' past patenting experience. Tenure status is more essential to publication decisions than to patenting decisions. Associate professors show strong resistance towards patenting and strong preference towards publication. Industry working experience, interestingly, has negative influence over academic patent. At the university level, the number of full time employees in the Technology Transfer Office shows significant impact on patenting especially to faculties who patent. The royalty share rate is not significant in faculty's patenting decision. Finally, at the federal lever, technology transfer policy, such as the Bayh-Dole Act, does leave significantly positive influence on faculties' patenting.


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