K* and ethics in the private sector

By Robyn Read, Alecia Boddie, and Zuzanna Chociej

K* Conference 2012 brought us together yesterday morning to talk about K*’s relation to the private sector.  One issue that rose to the surface was the ethics of K*. Specifically,  the question that arises concerns the interests that are being served by policy decisions.

The traditional industrial model is founded on information ownership and control. Within this model, in order to protect their ideas from competitors, private sector businesses primarily conducted in-house research.  However, in our new knowledge economy – when it is nearly impossible to control the flow of information – these businesses are now recognizing that they do not have the capacity to effectively steward information.  More specifically, in addition to utilizing crowd sourcing, they are relying on open source software, open data, and open innovation initiatives.

However, just because the traditional model is now ‘opening up’ it doesn’t mean that firms are losing site of what has traditionally been most important: profit. In the new knowledge economy, profits are accrued in the form of knowledge, and private sector businesses are increasingly investing resources in the capture and control of knowledge (which unfortunately does not exclude the manipulation of science-based evidence) for the purpose of promoting self-interest.

So, the question remains: what is the role of K* in the private sector?  Is K* able to help breakdown traditional power structures to ensure that evidence is used to ensure that industry is regulated in a way that benefits all rather than individual firms?  Do we need to extend the term K* to KI* where ‘I’ is used to make explicit the vested interests of knowledge brokers? Can K* workers play a larger normative role to provide the public and government the full evidence-based picture and provide direction of where to go?   What role does government play in all this?

The one thing that we do know is that there is no clear answer. However; K* workers definitely have a role to play in ensuring that all of the evidence is brought to the table so that we can work through the information and find the best possible solutions for the benefit of all.

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