Mapping the Outcomes of Multidisciplinary Intellectual Property Research: Lessons from the African Copyright Experience

AuthorJeremy de Beer
Mapping the Outcomes of Multidisciplinary
Intellectual Property Research: Lessons from
the African Copyright Experience
  1
 : Multidisciplinary intellectual property research oen in-
volves large-scale collaborative projects. Such projects combine not just
multiple research frameworks, methods, and perspectives, but also mul-
tiple individuals, institutions, and sources of funding. Demonstrating the
results of nancial and human resource investments into complex multi-
disciplinary projects is increasingly important. Experiences from one recent
multidisciplinary project — the African Copyright and Access to Knowledge
project — provide lessons for other intellectual property researchers trying
to map outcomes from current and future projects.
: La recherche multidisciplinaire en propriété intellectuelle exige
fréquemment la création de projets collaboratifs de grande envergure. Ces
projets combinent non seulement de nombreux cadres, méthodes et pers-
pectives de recherche, mais aussi un grand nombre de personnes, institutions
et sources de nancement. La démonstration des résultats des investisse-
ments en ressources nancières et humaines dans des projets multidiscipli-
naires complexes devient de plus en plus importante. Les expériences tirées
1 The author gratefully acknowledges nancial and strategic support from the Inter-
national Development Research Centre, Genome Canada, and the Social Sciences and
Humanities Research Council. Parts of this chapter are derived from C Armstrong, J de
Beer et al, Access to Knowledge in Africa: The Role of Copyright (Cape Town: IDRC/UCT
Press, 2010), and an unpublished report prepared for the World Intellectual Property
Organization on copyright impact assessment methodologies.
420 •   
d’un projet multidisciplinaire récent le Projet africain sur le droit d’auteur
et l’accès au savoir peuvent fournir des leçons aux autres chercheurs en
propriété intellectuelle tentant de tracer l’impact de projets actuels et futurs.
Research related to intellectual property often takes place in the context of
large-scale projects. This is especially true of research related to the natural
sciences and engineering, including such elds as genomics and related life
sciences. But a similar pattern is apparent in the social sciences and human-
ities, involving, for example, law, philosophy, anthropology, management,
economics, political science, and public policy. Common among these pro-
jects is a problem-based approach that draws heavily on multidisciplinary
teams of academic researchers, as well as partners from government and in-
dustry. Rather than investigating an issue, for example copyright law, in the
abstract, researchers are increasingly likely to look at legal issues applied to
practical problems, such as access to scholarly publications and other learn-
ing materials. Applied research usually requires expertise beyond the capabil-
ities of researchers in any single discipline: a multidisciplinary approach.
Multidisciplinary research projects face many challenges, from dispar-
ate literatures to methodological divides to disciplinary jargon. Another ma-
jor challenge is proving that the project has made a practical dierence in
society. While this is perhaps an issue with all research projects, it is especial-
ly important for large-scale, multidisciplinary projects. For most multidisci-
plinary researchers of intellectual property issues, there is or soon will be a
growing emphasis on results that demonstrate tangible returns on invest-
ments in research. The reasons vary: policy-makers are more often demand-
ing pragmatic advice, granting councils are increasingly accountable for
their use of public funds and more researchers are competing for less money.
Some funders of small- or medium-scale research programs that sup-
port multidisciplinary projects still leave researchers relatively free to ad-
minister funds without proving that they have achieved specic, promised
results. Other established agencies, however, have more demanding proced-
ures. Some hold mid-project meetings with peer reviewers, at which project
managers, principal investigators, and research collaborators must report
on progress, justify resource allocation, and earn satisfactory results to re-
lease further funding.

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