Administrators and the Responsible Conduct of Research
Collaborative Research:
Other Formalized Agreements

Other Agreements Used in Formalizing Aspects of Collaborations

As noted above, the following types of agreements may be collaborative in nature or they may be used to formalize aspects of collaborations. In other situations these agreements are used solely to define non-collaborative business transactions.

Data Sharing Plans: These are sometimes a requirement of federal program announcements. Essentially, they contain information concerning the means by which data developed under a sponsored project will be made available to others requesting access. While the data sharing plan is not, in and of itself, evidence of collaboration, it does open the possibility for new collaborations to be established based on the data having been shared.

Material Transfer Agreements: A material transfer agreement (MTA) covers situations in which one collaborator owns research materials such as a chemical compound or a biological substance, and has received a request from another collaborator for samples of the material. Frequently MTAs are not a reflection of a true collaboration, but rather a contractual relationship established for the sole purpose of obtaining a given research material. Whether a true research collaboration exists or not, the terms and conditions of the MTA are identical, primarily because they address institutional rights to intellectual property. The issues addressed are generally (a) an acknowledgement that the provider retains ownership over the original material and any duplicates of the material created by the recipient, (b) an agreement concerning who owns other materials created through the use of the material, (c) and the responsibility for liability that may occur in the conduct of research using the material.

Facility Use Agreements: When a researcher from one institution wishes to use a piece of equipment or a laboratory at another institution, the latter will often require that a facility use agreement is executed. The provisions of such agreements would cover insurance and liability issues, the cost of access, the ownership of intellectual property, and any limitations or restrictions that may be imposed on the visiting researcher. Frequently, collaborators visit and work in one another’s facilities for short periods of time. Institutions may find it difficult to balance the need to facilitate research by encouraging collaborations while at the same time ensuring that its facilities are held harmless from damages, and that the institution is protected from any liability caused by the visiting researcher in the conduct of the research.

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