IV. Research, Scholarship, and Creative Endeavors

Research Policy Issues

The Office of the Vice President for Research maintains the website www.research.psu.edu that is devoted to administering sponsored projects at Penn state. The site links to all University policies and procedures affecting research, federal rules and regulations governing research and grants management, and useful forms and resources for researchers and research administrators.

Freedom to Publish

Freedom to publish is essential to the fulfillment of the University's responsibility to make available the findings of research. The University and the faculty work closely together to preserve this right in grants and contracts. In special circumstances, however, they may agree to restrict or delay publication. For instance, a delay in publication may be necessary in order to seek patent protection. In addition, publications involving new technologies or software may limit discussion to statements of new discoveries and interpretation of scientific facts and need not reveal specific information about processes or methods that are proprietary in nature. Papers describing discoveries often are withheld pending additional confirmations believed to be essential. Faculty also have refrained from releasing information where general knowledge might lead to nonproductive speculation and exploitation. In those exceptional cases in which researchers are involved in government-classified research (permitted only at the Applied Research Laboratory) or unclassified research of significant importance to national security, publications may be subject to restrictions imposed by the federal government. However, faculty must realize that publication restrictions beyond those needed to file for patent protection or to protect the proprietary materials or information of other parties may negate the University's fundamental research exemption under U.S. export control laws, and thus could raise serious concerns regarding security restrictions and the involvement of graduate students in the covered research projects. Faculty should be very cautious about any situation that might restrict the free dissemination of research results and should always consult with the office of the vice president for research prior to agreeing to any restrictions. (See Export Control Regulations, below.)

Intellectual Property--Patents and Copyrights

Facilitating the process whereby creative and scholarly works may be put to public use through commercial application ("technology transfer") is an important aspect of the service mission of a land-grant university. University faculty have an obligation to disclose promptly to the University any inventions developed with University resources (facilities, funds, or equipment) or under sponsored projects, or those inventions developed within the field of expertise or scope of employment for which the faculty member is retained by the University.

Faculty inventors and creators should contact the Office of Technology Management with questions involving patents and copyrights. More information is available in the publication Intellectual Property, Technology Transfer; and Entrepreneurial Activity Policies and Procedures, available from the office of the associate vice president for research and technology transfer or on the Web at http://guru.psu.edu/policies/RA11.html. Also, see the Guide to Intellectual Property Management and Technology Transfer at Penn State on the Web at www.research.psu.edu/policies/intellectual-property/ip-management.

Outside Financial Commitments

Outside financial or business interests and relationships held personally by faculty, a faculty’s spouse and/or a faculty’s dependent child(ren) have the potential to create a conflict or a perceived conflict with the faculty’s Penn State research, scholarly activities and/or other institutional responsibilities.  University policy (HR91) requires that "faculty and staff members shall disclose to the administrative head of the college or other unit in which they are employed, or other appropriate administrative  officer, any potential conflict of interest of which they are aware before a contract or transaction is consummated."

A University policy statement adopted by the Board of Trustees in July 1990 further helps to explain conflict of interest. An excerpt from that policy reads as follows:

"Universities conduct research for the purpose of generating new knowledge. The potential for conflict of interest and/or commitment exists when faculty researchers exercise preferential access to knowledge, and/or University resources, for personal gain. The appropriate framework for faculty involvement in enterprises, either commercial or not-for-profit, has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis in concert with deans, department heads, program and center directors, office directors, etc. ("cognizant University administrators"). As a rule, there should be a clean demarcation of both effort and incentive between faculty duties and those activities associated with involvement in personal enterprises."

Faculty should familiarize themselves with University policies and government regulations governing outside financial or business interests and conflicts of interest.  (See the University Ethics website for a complete list and links to all such Penn State policies).  Full disclosure of outside financial or business interest(s) related to research, scholarly activities and/or other institutional responsibilities is the faculty's best protection.  University policy governing individual conflict of interest in research appears in RA20, institutional conflicts are described in RA21, and the disclosure and review process of outside financial or business interests that might present a potential conflict of interest with research projects is outlined in RAG20.

Entrepreneurial and Consulting Activities

The University has historically sought the full and rapid dissemination of the creative and scholarly works of its faculty to the benefit of the citizens of the Commonwealth and nation. This orientation is consistent with the teaching, research, and service missions of a land-grant university; however, outside professional activities should be pursued in a manner consistent with the primary obligations of University personnel to teaching, research, and service to the public.

The University acknowledges private consulting can be an effective mechanism for sharing the professional expertise and knowledge of faculty for the benefit of our non-University colleagues and entities and for the professional development of faculty. As an outside activity, private consulting should be carried out in a manner consistent with faculty primary obligations to the University. Faculty, with prior review and approval from their department head or chancellor, may engage in consulting up to four days per month during their appointment period (see HR80).  Special care should be exercised in executing private consulting contracts or arrangements. For example, contracts should be examined to ensure that the assignment of rights to intellectual property evolving from consulting activities does not conflict with the patent agreement signed by all faculty (see RA11); and, private consulting activities and any associated compensation will likely require a financial disclosure by the faculty involved (see RA20 and “Outside Financial Commitments” above).

More information is available in HR80, RA20 and RA12.

Credit for Scholarly Works and Co-authorship

It is University policy to give proper credit to those individuals who make material contributions to activities that lead to scholarly reports, papers, and publications. The University requires that authors of scholarly reports, papers, and publications abide by the principles established in RA13, "Co-authorship of Scholarly Reports, Papers and Publications."

Integrity in Research

The University places a very high value on the integrity of faculty research and scholarship. Misconduct in research or other scholarly activities is prohibited, and allegations of such misconduct shall be investigated thoroughly and resolved promptly. Faculty should refer to RA10, "Handling Inquiries /Investigations into Questions of Ethics in Research and in Other Scholarly Activities," and RAG16, "The Responsible Conduct of Research."

Export Control Regulations

U.S. export control laws apply to faculty and staff of the University. Usually research conducted at the University is considered fundamental, as long as researchers are free to publish their results, and therefore it is normally exempt from export controls. However, if the research involves an actual transport of materials, hardware, or software outside of the country, or if the faculty member is providing "defense services," such as providing technical assistance or training to foreign persons in the design or use of defense articles, or if a sponsor of research imposes publication restrictions or foreign national restrictions, then the exemption may not apply. Faculty also should be sensitive to export control requirements when hosting visiting scientists from other nations. Before embarking on a research project, faculty must review and comply with RA18, "Compliance with Federal Export Regulations," and RAG11, "Guidelines for Ensuring Compliance with Export Control Policy RA18."