The University of California recognizes that engagements in the private sector enrich academics’ research and teaching. I teach at professional schools, which tend to encourage teaching and research related to practice challenges. There’s a tradeoff between private sector engagements and benefits to students. For instance, several of my classes are based on client scenarios and my writing is informed by real business needs and constraints.
Norms surrounding conflicts disclosure and regulation is highly disciplinary. In some fields, experts think themselves above conflicts and do not disclose them. In others, such as law, norms of client confidentiality cause some academics to keep their conflicts secret. And some universities allow study sponsors to control the outcomes of research—something that is explicitly prohibited at Cal.
I serve on boards to two companies, Constella Intelligence (cybersecurity intelligence) and Palantir Technologies. I have also served on the boards of non-profits and operated a foundation, but no one seems concerned about those conflicts, and if you ask me in person, I’ll explain why you should be 🙂 Since 2015, I have been of counsel to Gunderson Dettmer LLP, where I advised scores of emerging technology companies and venture clients. The identities of my Gunderson clients are confidential, but I don’t engage in any kind of legal/expert opinion writing, public advocacy, or research for these clients. Instead, I typically help them with discrete legal problems.
My work has been directly or indirectly supported by many technology companies, including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Palantir, and Nokia. I always disclose specific sponsors of my research projects, and all situations where my academic work may be colored by a client or sponsor.