Letters to the Editor

Letter: Grants wasted

June 11, 2014


To the editor:

My letter to the editor published May 19 about the large amount of wasted taxpayers’ money spent on academia’s research grants created a negative reaction. This issue could be easily resolved if KU would release (1) the research grant names, (2) the source of these grants, (3) the amount of money for each grant and (4) the cost-benefit of each grant to the taxpayers from the last 20 years. I believe that Kansas University receives over $200 million each year in grants and it would be enlightening to see the benefit of these research grants to our taxpayers.

Respondents to my letter cited past benefits to society from academia, but almost all citations came from scientists who produced their results long before any government grants were given, even going back centuries. Publicly funded academia should concentrate on educating our students by having professors doing the teaching in classrooms instead of using teaching assistants. Tens of billions of taxes each year could be better spent in increasing our students’ intellectual prowess rather than being wasted on academic research grants.

Private inventors and private industry respectively have produced much greater technological advancements to society at no cost to the public treasury. In fact, if academic institutions like KU had invested their research grants into profitable advancements, these academic institutes could thrive on the royalties of the patentable results from their research grants far into the future without any further tax-funded grants.


Ron Holzwarth 4 years ago

"academic institutes could thrive on the royalties of the patentable results from their research grants"

I don't think that statement is correct, at least at a simplistic level. Instead I believe that in many or most cases when a patent is issued by the United States patent office for an invention, or for a new and novel method of production, when a government grant was used to fund the research to develop it, the United States government often owns the patent, with some restrictions.

For a complete explanation written by an attorney, see:

A short clip from the above link:
"The federal government, through the operation of government-owned research facilities, research grants to universities and procurement contracts with private industry, funds almost 50% of the national R&D effort. Because of this enormous funding, the federal government has the most United States patent rights."

Ron Holzwarth 4 years ago

There are misconceptions about patents that many laymen have, mostly about what rights a patent grants its owner. When you are granted a patent, you have published everything about the product, or new and novel method of production, for everyone that wants to read all about it.

Patents are often scoured by readers in foreign countries, and then used for whatever purposes they desire. It is very difficult to do anything about that, except to hire international lawyers in an attempt to sue for payment of royalties, or to get them to cease the use of your patent.

And, if an individual or a company here in the United States starts using your patent for whatever purpose, they have not broken the law at all.

The only thing that a patent actually does is grant you the right to sue in court anyone that infringes on your patent, at your expense. Although in some cases a contingency fee arrangement is possible in egregious cases. But those cases are very rare, and very few universities, if any, have legal departments that specialise in patent infringement cases. And even then, can you imagine the University of Kansas suing General Motors or Dow Chemical Company? It is quite likely that the case would drag on for 17 years, at which point the patent would have expired anyway.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years ago

Everything you need to know about KU research grants can be found here.


Bob Reinsch 4 years ago

I think the writer of the letter should take tours of the labs at the University of Kansas and Kansas State University to get a more comprehensive view of what really happens at research universities. Also, billions in public funds go to the private sector every year for research purposes in the form of grants.

Kevin Elliott 4 years ago

The letter is from Penny, you can tell what side of an issue he will come down on without bothering with facts, he has sides, no morals or values to form his opinions, he dislikes them.

The suggestion that we leave it up to the free market to cure disease, make advances in science and technology and take the advances of health and safety and progress for the American People out of the hands of the American People and putting it in the hands of big corporations is not only absurd, it is dangerous.

Sure, I do not love or trust the government completely, but I sure as hell trust them more than I trust Monsanto and Smith Kline Beecham and Haliburton.

I would be a fool if I left my future in their hands.

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