How GCEP Operates - Response to Center for American Progress Report's Major Findings
A report from the Center for American Progress entitled “Big Oil Goes to College” was recently released. That report does not provide an accurate representation of the issues raised because it does not address the actual operations of the Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) at Stanford University. Instead it focuses only on a limited interpretation of the GCEP contract. The material provided below outlines how GCEP actually operates with respect to the major findings listed in the report.
- Research independence and academic self-governance
GCEP follows in Stanford’s long, rich history of developing strategic relationships with the world’s leading technology companies to solve the important societal problems of the future. Stanford’s participation in the research that led to the information technology revolution is an example of the kind of impact GCEP is intended to have in the areas of energy and the environment. Stanford is committed to investing its resources and efforts to support fundamental research that could lead to cleaner and more efficient energy technologies. GCEP is managed by Stanford, which has a strong academic reputation across the entire field of relevant disciplines, the capability to lead a program of this size, and a history of and reputation for encouraging eventual commercial application of technologies that flow from the research.
GCEP’s research independence and self-governance are fully protected. The Project is governed by the university’s rules for research openness and independence. The GCEP Director, a Stanford faculty member, is responsible for leading and supervising the Project. The director and our staff also recommend which research proposals the Sponsors should approve. All the research ideas and proposals received by GCEP come directly from faculty members at Stanford and other participating universities, not from Sponsor companies. In over 12 rounds of funding since GCEP’s launch in 2002, every set of research efforts recommended by the Project has been approved by the GCEP Sponsors.
- Use of impartial peer review
GCEP diligently follows Stanford's strict guidelines to ensure that our research selection process is thorough and transparent at every level. We have carefully designed a process that uses not one, but two independent peer review panels composed of technical experts with no affiliation with Stanford or our Sponsors. For more details, please see Project Selection Process on the GCEP site.
- Transparency of project selection process
GCEP and its Sponsors have worked together to create a project selection process that ensures funded efforts are in line with the high standards and goals of GCEP as an academic research institution at Stanford. This Project Selection Process is posted on our site and is fully described in all GCEP Request for Proposals (RFPs). Research proposals from faculty are subjected to extensive independent peer reviews, which is the time-tested, standard way that research efforts are generally selected. To provide a better understanding of what GCEP is seeking in terms of collaborators and proposals, we have also provided details about Getting Funded on our site.
- “Academic research” vs. “corporate research for hire”
The GCEP Sponsors have their own substantial, related research programs. They have chosen to support research in a university because it brings fresh ideas, independent viewpoints, and a new generation of researchers. Both Stanford and the GCEP Sponsors agree that academic freedom is an essential component of this research environment.
Through a rigorous and independent project selection process, GCEP has committed about $100 million to build a diversified research portfolio including such areas as solar energy, biofuels, carbon capture and storage, advanced combustion, battery and fuel cell technology, and the electric grid.
- Fundamental right to publish
Stanford has an ironclad policy that requires the results of research be made public and publication is not subject to prior approval or review by any Sponsor. Since a key goal of the Project is to promote the exchange of ideas, comprehensive scientific reports describing GCEP research are currently available to the public on the Project's website (see Technical Reports). Results of the research are also extensively published in science and engineering journals (see Publications) and presented at meetings (see Presentations).
- Intellectual property and Sponsors’ rights
Around 30 applications for patents have been filed to date based on technologies developed with GCEP funding. Stanford (or the external institution performing the research) holds formal legal title to all technology, patents, and information derived from GCEP-funded research. GCEP Sponsors receive a royalty-free license to patents that arise from research funded by the Project. Stanford or any of the Sponsors can license the technology to any other entity that wants to use it.
- Sharing of research results with other academic institutions
As with all academic research at Stanford, GCEP investigators have no restrictions on sharing their research data with other academic institutions. The only limitation is that there is a maximum period of up to 60 days in which publication of GCEP research results can be delayed to allow consultation with the GCEP Sponsors about what patent coverage should be sought. This is consistent with the guidelines set by federal agencies and with Stanford policies. Following this period, research results may be made public. Manuscripts submitted for publication and final publications are not subject to prior approval or review by any Sponsor. Any additional delay beyond this period is subject only to the short time required for the academic research institution to file any patent applications.
- Regulation of Conflicts of Interest
Stanford’s long history of working with the private sector has produced sound practices and guidelines for maintaining the integrity of the research process. GCEP is governed by Stanford’s extensive conflict-of-interest policies. By following these guidelines and incorporating a rigorous and independent research selection process, GCEP has funded over 75 energy research programs at Stanford and institutions around the world. These efforts have led to breakthroughs in fundamental science and engineering science that will help meet society's objectives for abundant energy, high efficiency, clean air, and substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
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