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Responsible Conduct of Research Training

Publication, Data and Intellectual Property

Many institutions subscribe to the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure with 1970 Interpretive Comments of the American Association of University Professors with the 1987-1990 revisions. At Washington State University, the section on academic freedom reads as follows:

“Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties; but research for pecuniary return should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution.”

Following this basic theme, most institutions not accept grants or enter into agreements for the support of instruction or research that confer upon an external party the power to censor, unduly delay, or exercise effective veto power over either the content of instruction or the publication of research. Publication of research findings may temporarily be delayed in order to protect patent rights or permit the research sponsor to review the proposed publication for the sole purpose of identifying proprietary information furnished by or belonging to the sponsor.

However, to protect both the individual researcher and the institution, PIs should be alert to language in proposals, award notices, or other project documents that would limit openness. The Sponsored Projects Office (SPO) staff is available to assist in reviewing such documents. Any concerns about restrictions on openness or the ability to publish should be resolved, via SPO, before an award is accepted.

Publication in peer-reviewed journals is at the heart of the academic research enterprise. Considerations around the sharing of information, and the ability to replicate research results, are discussed in the excerpt from "On Being a Scientist".

Since many institutes are involved in technology transfer, there has been an increased interest in patentability and licensing of intellectual property developed at institutions. This has brought new attention to issues of openness and publishability, as well as potential conflicts of interest.

Underlying an institution’s intellectual property policies is the principle that institution resources should be reserved for meeting the institution’s mission. Typically, the use of research facilities and resources for commercial purposes or for personal financial gain is managed through state ethics laws and the institution’s Conflict of Interest Committee. As a recipient of federal research funding, institutions must report invention disclosures and promote technology transfer for the good of society. Participation in scholarly publication is also a key component of the research apprenticeship of students. Donald Kennedy's 1989 paper "On Academic Authorship" presents a systematic discussion of the topic.

Finally, after the research project is complete, regulations stipulate the length of time that scientific records and data must be retained. In general, data must be kept for THREE YEARS following the closure of a project (this applies to both scientific and financial records). Special circumstances may require longer retention periods. Signed and possibly witnessed Laboratory notebooks are crucial project records, for example, in support of a patent application. In addition, records related to human subjects must be kept confidential – see Human Subjects section.