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Patents are not normally considered as publications in scholarly journals, as they are not subject to peer-review. They are actually new ideas, but patenting does not guarantee the impact and importance (whether good or bad idea). However, academics tend to patent inventions and discoveries for the sake of possible commercial benefits.

I wonder if they have any considerable impact on academic career? e.g., promotion, getting academic jobs, and in a different context, impact on proposals for getting grants and research funds.

  • At my university (KU Leuven) patents are treated as being of similar value to a journal publication and also count towards PhDs for example. – Marc Claesen Dec 6 '13 at 16:43
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The answer will clearly vary by institution, and in particular by field (Your average English prof wouldn't be expected to hold any patents but a materials scientist might) but yes, it certainly can. Patents and publications are measures of productivity and it would be silly not to note them. It should be pointed out, however, that patents correlate to jobs closer to industry, so a particularly high rate might be indicative of someone not in academia.

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FWIW my university's promotion and tenure guidelines were revised recently (April 2013) to explicitly include consideration of patents and commercialization activities:

"Promotion and tenure require excellent performance and the promise of continued excellence in 1) teaching, 2) service, and 3) research, creative work, and scholarship. The University values an inclusive view of scholarship in the recognition that knowledge is acquired and advanced through discovery, integration, application, and teaching. Given this perspective, promotion and tenure reviews, as detailed in the criteria of individual departments and colleges, will recognize original research contributions in peer-reviewed publications as well as integrative and applied forms of scholarship that involve cross-cutting collaborations with business and community partners, including translational research, commercialization activities, and patents."

I think we may see more of this sort of thing as the funding landscape changes and the share of state funding for universities decreases further.

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