By Yuko Narushima
UNIVERSITIES need to reclaim a moral purpose to distinguish themselves from other businesses, the vice-chancellor of Macquarie University says.
In an article published in Professional Educator today, Steven Schwartz says universities are losing sight of their ethical function in their desire to turn a profit.
”The purpose of university research was the discovery and dissemination of knowledge for the benefit of society,” Professor Schwartz writes. ”Making money was never their goal.”
The consequence has been an erosion of public trust, he says.
Giving an example from his childhood in New York, Schwartz recalls how a polio vaccine was created by a university researcher, Jonas Salk. The vaccine was trialled on 2 million primary schoolchildren, including Professor Schwartz. The drug worked but the researcher did not become rich.
”This is because he and the University of Pittsburgh, the private university where he worked, licensed the vaccine to anyone who wanted to manufacture it,” he says.
”The ethical premise driving Salk’s work was simple.”
He contrasts the situation to today, where famous medical researchers lend their names to articles written by drug companies to boost sales.
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