Skip to main content
Unpublished Paper
Contracting over the Disclosure of Scientific Knowledge: Intellectual Property Protection and Academic Publication
  • Joshua S Gans
  • Fiona E Murray, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Scott Stern, Northwestern University

Knowledge disclosure plays a central role in models of economic growth. Few studies, however, have established the conditions that support or inhibit such disclosures. In this paper, we provide a theoretical model that evaluates the conditions supporting the disclosure of privately funded knowledge through scientific publication, patenting, or both. Our analysis is grounded in the conflicting incentives for disclosure facing researchers and their funders: scientists have incentives to disclose discoveries through scientific publication while firms have incentives to protect their ideas through patenting or secrecy. It centers on the strategic interaction between researchers and firms bargaining over whether (and how) knowledge will be disclosed. We evaluate four different disclosure regimes: secrecy, commercial science (where the only disclosures result from patenting), open science (where the only disclosures occur through scientific publication) and patent-paper pairs (where the firm discloses along both dimensions). Our model then derives the conditions under which each of these outcomes emerges, and offers insights into the determinants of the disclosure strategy of a firm. Overall, this establishes the micro-foundations of a key aspect of economic growth – knowledge disclosure – combining an analysis of patenting, scientific publication and secrecy.

  • disclosure,
  • science,
  • academic freedom,
  • publication,
  • secrecy,
  • cumulative knowledge,
  • intellectual property protection
Publication Date
February 26, 2010
Citation Information
Joshua S Gans, Fiona E Murray and Scott Stern. "Contracting over the Disclosure of Scientific Knowledge: Intellectual Property Protection and Academic Publication" (2010)
Available at: