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Subject: Patents


From: Niccolo Caldararo <caldararo>
Date: Tuesday, August 27, 2002
This is a much delayed response to Donny L. Hamilton and C.Wayne
Smith's comments of June 25, 2002 (Conservation DistList Instance:
16:3 Thursday, June 27, 2002).  Their inquiry regarded the issue of
information and conservation treatments.  We often in our practice
come up with new ways of doing things.  To a certain extent these
solutions are generally modifications of prior practices, but
occasionally they are true inventions. Hamilton and Smith have the
dilemma of trying to ascertain how to regard their inventions, to
which they have received patents.  These patents apparently have
been developed in cooperation between Texas A&M and Dow Corning.
This problem has accelerated among scholars in recent years as
potentially profitable advances emanating from joint academic and
commercial inquiries become property.  As such techniques involved
become limited in their application and they then are controlled by
licencees or by other agency.

It is clear that  Hamilton and Smith are not concerned with this
aspect, rather with what they perceive as the limitations imposed by
the peer review process.  After some reflection I think that their
allegation that preconceived ideas by other practitioners is
blocking presentation of their ideas is unfortunate, but not
uncommon in both business and science. Certainly it is typical in
the examples given by Kuhn in his The Structure of Scientific
Revolutions (1962).  I wrote a long piece on peer review for the
DistList (Conservation DistList Instance 14:2 Distributed: Thursday,
June 29, 2000 Message Id: cdl-14-2-002) and have published a letter
or two in the AIC newsletter mentioning problems I see with it.
Nature magazine has published a couple of interesting summaries (21
Oct. 1999). The AAAS Observer (7 July 1989) discussed how papers are
chosen for publication in science by Daniel Koshland,  and examples
of plagiarism are found now and then (Science, vol. 245, 14 July
1989:120-2). Nature proposed some changes in the process in March of
this year (v. 416 pp 258-260) but the essence of the problem lies
often in the fact described by Kuhn, people not only are loath to
change their minds, they want to give money and jobs to people they
know and like, rather than someone with a good idea or for that
matter a good paper.  I worked in one museum and was on an
affirmative action committee for several years and was surprised by
how far some people would go to justify hiring someone they or a
friend knew rather than to go outside and do a real search.

This is human, I guess, the known quantity and all that, but it does
undermine the idea that we live in a work that values merit.  So my
only real answer to the question is that you must do what Kuhn's
examples did, try and try again, publish in whatever venue you can
and be prepared to suffer the consequences of your convictions.  In
other words, good luck!

Niccolo Caldararo
Director and Chief Conservator
Conservation Art Service

                  Conservation DistList Instance 16:14
                Distributed: Wednesday, August 28, 2002
                       Message Id: cdl-16-14-003
Received on Tuesday, 27 August, 2002

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