Academic Entrepreneurship: Bayh-Dole versus the “Professor’s Privilege”

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Thomas Astebro of HEC Paris, Serguey Braguinsky of the University of Maryland, Pont Braunerhjelm of KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and Anders Brostrom of  KTH Royal Institute of Technology. They recently published an article in the ILR Review entitled “Academic Entrepreneurship: Bayh-Dole versus the “Professor’s Privilege”, which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Astebro recounts the motivations for this research.]

ILR_72ppiRGB_powerpointThrough the Bayh-Dole Act (BDA) of 1980, the US pioneered a systemic change in which Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), traditionally held by the granting agency, was transferred to universities if the research had been conducted using federal funds. This change in the IPR regime aimed to simplify relationships with granting agencies and to increase American competitiveness through increased licensing of university-based research. In Europe, the Professors’ Privilege (PP) prevailed. Under the PP, the university has no ownership rights to IP created by a university employee. However, about a decade and a half ago and following the apparent success in the US, many countries were about to abolish the Professor’s Privilege in favor of adopting BDA-type IPR regimes.

We were motivated in writing this paper by the recent evaluations of introductions of Bayh-Dole type IPR regimes in several European countries, including Germany, Denmark, Norway, and Finland. (Other countries have also made such changes.) The evaluations are consistent: these legislative changes have lead to drastic reductions in both the number of patents claimed by university professors, the number of companies started by university professors, and, when measured, a reduction also in the quality of the patents submitted. One of the authors had also recently been appointed advisor to a Swedish Parliamentary investigation on the possibility of abolishing the Professor’s Privilege in Sweden, which would be the third such investigation in a relatively short period of time.

The paper shows that as long as they are stable and supported by an appropriate institutional framework, both types of legislations — BDA and PP — can generate fruitful outcomes in terms of invention commercializations by their creators. However, the many studies investigating the abolition of the Professor’s Privilege in favour of Bayh-Dole type IP regimes in Europe leads one to conclude that wholesale changes to the legislation have had very significant negative consequences, at least when it comes to academic entrepreneurship. Countries have struggled to change the institutional framework to reflect the new legislation, in some cases taking decades to do. The conclusion is thus: don’t rock the boat. Make small changes if necessary. In Sweden, the final report to the parliament suggested that just like in Canada, each university should have the right to decide themselves how to regulate IP rights.

This paper has been challenged by some who do not believe the figures we present on the relative rate of start-ups by academics in Sweden versus the US, which show a slight edge for Sweden. (The US on the other hand outperform Sweden when it comes to start-up rates by non-academics.) This reaction might partly be due to that the US is more known than Sweden, or by some questioning the data. Granted, the two datasets we use are generated in different ways, but on the other hand represent rather substantial efforts to collect either representative data (by the National Science Foundation) or register-based data on all start-ups (Statistics Sweden). Further evaluations will surely appear on this important topic.


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What Do Unions Do for Mothers?

Tae-Youn Park of Vanderbilt University, Eun-Suk Lee of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, and John W. Budd of the University of Minnesota recently published in article in the ILR Review entitled, “What Do Unions Do for Mothers? Paid Maternity Leave Use and the Multifaceted Roles of Labor Unions,” which is free to read for a limited time. Below they discuss the motivations and challenges of this research.

Paid parental leave is an important issue around the globe. In countries with long histories of universal maternity leave, there is concern with usage rates and with extending this to fathers. In the United States—the lone industrialized country without universal paid leave for new parents (though there are now a very small number of state-based programs and many employer-provided plans)—the central debate is over whether and how to enact such a policy. But a key motivating fact for this research is that simply enacting or offering a paid parental leave plan does not automatically mean that workers will take a leave. So we need to better understand the factors that prevent workers from taking a leave, and ways to reduce these barriers.

One of the challenges with research into these issues, however, is that the decision to take a leave is very complex. So in this project we focus on one important institution: labor unions. Labor unions are popularly associated with higher wages and restrictive work rules, but in reality unions can have many effects in the workplace. We derive a model in which a worker’s decision to take a leave is broken down into four steps: 1) the policy needs to be available, 2) if available, the worker needs to be aware of it, 3) given awareness, the worker needs to believe she can afford to take a leave, and 4) even if affordable, the worker needs to have implicit or explicit assurances that potential negative consequences that make the leave unattractive are unlikely. Based on broad research on what unions do, we discuss how unions have the potential to positively affect all four of these key steps.

To empirically analyze at least part of this framework, we analyze 15 years of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97), which is a nationally-representative sample. We are only able to analyze mothers’ decisions to take a paid maternity leave, and our final data set has 27,472 observations from 4,108 female workers across a 15-year period. Ultimately we find that union-represented workers are at least 17 percent more likely to use paid maternity leave than comparable nonunion workers, and that unions facilitate this leave-taking through the availability, awareness, and affordability channels. We also find that mothers who take a paid maternity leave experience a post-leave penalty such that their wage growth is slower when compared to those who did not take a leave. Surprisingly, we did not find that labor unions lessen this penalty. We hope this theorizing and these results spur others to continue to deepen our understanding of the barriers that prevent new parents from taking a paid leave, and help identify ways to reduce these barriers.

Keep in contact with the authors by reaching out to them on twitter: @JohnWBudd!

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ILR Review’s Special Issue on Immigration is now online!

world-map-306338_960_720.pngThe August 2018 Special Issue of the ILR Review is now online to view! This issue gathers cross-national perspectives of immigration legalization to provide a better understanding of immigration as a worldwide phenomenon. Below is an excerpt from the special issue introduction entitled “Introduction to a Special Issue on the Impact of Immigrant Legalization Initiatives: International Perspectives on Immigration and the World of Work,” from authors from Cornell University, Maria Lorena Cook, Shannon Gleeson, Kati L. Griffith, and Lawrence M. Kahn:

“The articles in this special issue draw on studies of legalization initiatives in major immigrant destinations: Canada, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Together they underscore the importance of cross-national perspectives for understanding the range of legalization programs and their impact on immigrant workers, the workplace, and the labor market”

For more from this special issue, which will be free to read for a limited amount of time, click here.


ILR’s goal is to publish the best empirical research on the world of work, to advance theory, and to inform policy & practice. They welcome papers that are bold and original, and seek to explore new approaches to organizational and public policy. The journal is based in Cornell’s ILR School.

To submit your work to this journal click here!



World Map Photo attributed to Free Photos.

HRM and Small-Firm Employee Motivation – Before and After the Great Recession

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Alex Bryson of the University College London and Dr. Michael White Emeritus Fellow at Universty of Westminster.  They recently published an article in the ILR Review entitledHRM and small-firm employee motivation – before and after the Great Recession,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Bryson reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

ILR_72ppiRGB_powerpointWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

Controversy surrounds the role of high-performance, or high-involvement, management practices in small firms. Many believe these practices only ‘deliver’ in larger firms. So we wanted to see whether this was the case by looking at links between the intensity of what we term ‘human resource management practices’ and job attitudes among employees in small firms.

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

The additional motivation was to establish whether hypothesised links between HRM in small firms and employee job attitudes would differ pre- and post-recession, as some have suggested. So we produce estimates pre- and post-recession.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

The most challenging aspect was replicating similar data sets for 2004 and 2011 given changes in the design of the survey we were using. The surprising result is that findings generally replicate those for larger firms.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

It is innovative because nobody has examined the links between HRM intensity and job attitudes among employees in small firms using large-scale linked employer-employee data.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

Think hard about motivating your analyses based on sound theory and then search or construct good empirical data to test your hypotheses.


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New special issue on precarious labour from Work, Employment and Society

WES cover

[We are pleased to welcome Gabriella Alberti, Ioulia Bessa, Kate Hardy, Vera Trappmann and Charles Umney from Leeds Business School. They recently edited a special issue for Work, Employment and Society on precarious labour.]

The special issue In, Against and Beyond Precarity: The Struggles of Insecure Workers received almost 100 submissions, one of the highest in the history of the British Sociological Association’s journals. The call for papers was launched following the 2016 Work, Employment and Society conference organised by Centre of Employment Relations Innovation and Change at the University of Leeds. The volume of submissions reflects the level of academic interest in the topic and its political relevance. As workers’ power relative to capital has weakened, the use of the term has rapidly expanded. It is often used to describe a rise in contingent forms of employment (such as short-term or zero-hours contracts), but also to denote an increase in more subjective perceptions of insecurity among workers. There is therefore a risk of overusing the term, or stretching its meaning beyond recognition. We sought to address some of these problems in compiling the special issue.

In our introduction, we argue that it is more useful to think of ‘precarity’ not as the defining characteristic of a particular social group or class (as in Guy Standing’s notion of the “precariat” which is widely influential among many sociologists) but as a process of precarisation that encompasses increasing insecurity observable across a much wider range of employment contexts, and an increasing uncertainty through peoples’ life courses. The articles selected in the special issue identify different drivers of precarisation. Sometimes, it is driven through employer efforts to directly undermine workers’ job security. Companies may rely on outsourcing or forcing workers into dubious self-employment to secure more ‘flexible’ (read: insecure) labour sourcing (as shown by Moore and Newsome’s article). Governments themselves may also restructure their own supply chains leading to intensified insecurity for public service workers, or else normalise insecurity in the wider economy through changes to welfare systems (as discussed in Jaehrling et al. and Rubery’s contributions to our issue respectively).

Other contributions also show how restrictions on people’s wider rights as citizens can have profound effects on work. In different ways this is evidenced by two contributions on China: by Pun and Smith who examine the legal restrictions which subordinate the emerging Chinese working class, and in Choi’s study of Chinese taxi drivers forbidden from owning their own vehicles. It is also demonstrated by Simola’s discussion of “citizenship precarisation”: in which young university-educated intra-EU migrants’ access to benefits, health and social assistance have become increasingly conditional upon complex entitlement requirements.

Finally, it is also important to recognise a much more diffuse process of implicit ‘precarisation’, which is revealed in many studies of working life extending well beyond only those focusing on low-paid, low-skilled jobs. In our special issue, this is compellingly illustrated by Hassard et al., who show how company policies in pursuit of competitiveness have led to a much stronger perception of job insecurity among managerial professionals (along with a belief among younger managers that this was becoming the new normal).

Which actors are best placed to combat these processes of ‘precarisation’? First, we should not be defeatist about the role that can be played by workers themselves. Manky’s study of outsourced Chilean mine workers shows the surprising levels of industrial power they were able to wield given support from sympathetic political actors. Alternatively, Jaehrling’s study shows the value of direct political interventions (such as implementing clauses in government procurement contracts) in mitigating the consequences of supply chain restructuring. Ultimately, the special issue underlines the urgent need for a research agenda which is more empirically grounded and more imaginative in engaging with people’s security in work and the diverse ways in which it is being undermined.

The special issue In, Against and Beyond Precarity: The Struggles of Insecure Workers is free to access until 2 July 2018.

The Governance of Labor Standards in Australian and German Garment Supply Chains

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Elke Schuessler of the Institute of Organization Science at the Johannes Kepler University Linz, Dr. Stephen J. Frenkel of the University of New South Wales, and Dr. Chris F. Wright of the University of Sydney Business School.  They recently published an article in the ILR Review entitledFocusing Events and Changes in the Governance of Labor Standards in Australian and German Garment Supply Chains,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Frenkel reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]


What motivated you to pursue this research

Globalization is a feature of the world economy. This is illustrated most sharply by the outsourcing of production to factories in developing countries. The resulting global supply chains raise questions about the pay and conditions of workers whose labour contributes to the final product. Absent adequate law enforcement and continuous pressure by large often multinational retail and marketing firms to reduce costs, factories and workers are subject to a ‘race to the bottom’ in what are commonly referred to as ‘labour standards.’ On the other hand, many lead firms are intent on avoiding reputational damage associated with worker exploitation, so they have become standards’ regulators, taking responsibility for ensuring that their suppliers abide by a code of labour standards’ conduct. Our research investigates similarities and differences in lead firm regulation policies with a view to advancing theory and offering insights into how the cost reduction v regulation puzzle might be resolved.

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

Our research has been strongly influenced by the Rana Plaza disaster of April 2013 when the collapse of a building in Dhaka, Bangladesh left 1,130 mainly female garment workers dead and over 2,000 injured. This incident highlighted regulatory failure in the Bangladesh garment export industry which has become a major supplier to lead firms in advanced Western countries. As a result, a new set of institutions were established by lead firms, global and local unions and international agencies to promote and regulate building and worker safety in the industry. This development provided an opportunity to examine the impact of these institutional changes on lead firm and suppliers’ attitudes and behaviour regarding regulation of worker safety and labour standards more generally.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

There is no systematic publicly available knowledge regarding lead firms’ responses to Rana Plaza and ensuing institutional changes. We explore why some lead firms joined the Accord a collective agreement, signaling a preference for high safety standards and a commitment to sharing decision-making with unions while other firms responded in less demanding ways. The lead firms we examine are drawn from comparative samples of Australian and German companies which enables analysis of firm type, country of origin norms, the role of stakeholders, and host country institutions in explaining our findings. Our study has prompted a broader project currently underway that links lead firms in Australia, Germany, Sweden and the UK with garment factories and workers in Bangladesh (see We are tracing the impact of lead firm policies and institutional influences on factory labour standards, including how these are perceived by management and workers respectively. Our comprehensive approach emphasizing the importance of a ‘focusing event’ and the regulatory influence of resulting institutions on factory management and workers, is likely to make a major contribution to the theory and practice of global garment supply chain governance.

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The Short-Term Employment Costs of Regulatory Reforms

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Andrea Bassanini of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Federico Cingano Bank of Italy.  They recently published an article in the ILR Review entitledBefore it Gets Better: The Short-Term Employment Costs of Regulatory Reforms,which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the inspiration for conducting this research:]


Despite their being understood as powerful tools to promote and sustain economic growth, the pace of structural reforms slowed down during the recent recession and subsequent sluggish recovery (OECD 2016; IMF 2016a). These trends have partly been traced to increasing concerns that such reforms may entail costly transitory adjustments whose burden becomes especially worrying in periods of persistent economic and employment slack.
But are such concerns grounded? Surprisingly, not much is known as to their actual relevance or, perhaps more importantly, as to whether appropriately designed policies could help attenuating them (see Boeri et al, 2015; IMF 2016b).

In “Before it gets better: The Short-Term Employment Costs of Regulatory Reforms”, A. Bassanini (OECD) and F. Cingano (Bank of Italy) looked at the employment consequences of reforms removing barriers to entry in product markets (PMR reforms) and lowering the cost of dismissals (EPL reforms). Drawing on more than 30 years of cross-country industry and regulation data, they show that both reforms entail non-negligible – though transitory – employment losses on average. A reduction of barriers to entry in network industries, for example,  induces industry employment to fall below its pre reform level during the first three years. Similarly, one year after the “average” reform of dismissal legislation employment in dismissal intensive industries is around 0.5% below its pre-reform level (relative to other industries).

These negative short-term consequences can be contained, according to the analysis. For one thing, employment losses turn out to be smaller, if not negligible, for product and labour market reforms implemented during economic upswings. When aggregate output is growing above its potential, as usually occurs in the years following a recession period, hiring is scaled up while there are few inefficient jobs to be destroyed.
Moreover, the costs of easing dismissals legislation are negligible when product market regulation is light. Because the reverse does not hold (the costs of lowering entry barriers are found to be higher when employment legislation is light) the analysis suggests that a highly regulated country interested in reforming both domains could minimize the short-term costs of its policy package by deregulating product markets before the labor market.

Finally, the paper finds that employment losses from reforms of EPL for regular, open-ended contracts are less acute in countries with significant labour market dualism, where volatile positions are typically filled with temporary contracts. This result is remarkable because lowering dismissal regulation on permanent contracts is probably the single most effective way to tackle segmentation between protected permanent contracts and precarious temporary contracts (see OECD, 2014). In other words, EPL reforms are likely to come at no cost (on employment) in those countries where they will bring the greatest benefits (on duality).

These findings are obtained accounting for a number of confounding factors including country-industry trends (capturing specialization patterns, trends in regulation), country specific yearly shocks (capturing the business-cycle, “waves” of reforms, etc.) and industry specific shocks (as technology or demand shocks). They also proved robust to a large set of specification and sensitivity checks, to tests for reverse causality and to using in political variables as instrument for changes in regulation.


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