The National Park Service (NPS) has finalized a policy that requires researchers using specimens collected from national parks to enter into a benefits-sharing agreement with NPS if their research produces discoveries or inventions with a commercial application.  Under the new rule, researchers with commercially successful discoveries would provide monetary or non-monetary compensation, such as scientific equipment or lab work, to the national park on an annual basis, subject to the terms of their benefit-sharing agreement.

The decision was published in the Federal Register (http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/2010-7871.htm) on April 7, 2010.  The decision is an outgrowth of several commercial applications of scientific discoveries made in national parks, the most notable being the invention of PCR from the study of a microorganism discovered in Yellowstone National Park.

The new policy will not affect current requirements or the application process for obtaining a permit to conduct research in a national park, as the benefits-sharing agreement would be initiated after permitted research was conducted.

More information is available at http://parkplanning.nps.gov (select “Washington Office” from the park menu and then follow the link for benefits-sharing).