Legal Obligations of Research Agreements
There are additional intellectual property issues to consider if a research project:
- has been funded by external sources;
- makes use of materials borrowed or transferred from an external source;
- makes use of information shared with the researcher in confidence; and/or
- is conducted collaboratively with another institution.
Under each of these conditions, a research agreement is normally negotiated and signed between the University of Toronto and the external source of funding, materials, information and/or knowledge. Each research agreement should be reviewed and endorsed by the University of Toronto Research Services office. The administrators there will ensure that the researchers' and University's rights are protected, and that the terms and conditions of the agreement do not conflict with the University’s policies.
Grants & Contracts
Most UofTM research is funded through grants from the Federal granting councils: SSHRC, NSERC and CIHR. Grants from these agencies rarely have intellectual property implications, so the University's policies would normally apply. Yet there are other sources of research funding, including companies, Provincial agencies, and foundations. Each will have their own research agenda, and some will provide funding only if their own intellectual property requirements are met.
Research agreements may grant a sponsor rights to resulting intellectual property, and may give the sponsor the right to delay a publication arising from the research. Faculty researchers must understand the intellectual property clauses of their funding agreements in order to fully disclose the implications to the students and colleagues engaged in the work.
Material Transfer Agreements
It is relatively common for researchers in the physical and health sciences to use materials provided by industry (or even other university researchers) in their research projects. These 'materials' can be biological agents, pharmaceuticals, animals, or practically any other substance that may be needed for a research project.
A material transfer agreement between the material provider and the University is used to clarify how, when and for what purpose the material may be used. Companies that provide materials to university researchers tend to have lengthy material transfer agreements that may include intellectual property ownership and confidentiality clauses. Extreme care must be taken when reviewing these agreements, and researchers are well advised to remember that these agreements must be reviewed and endorsed by the administrators at Simcoe Hall.
Confidentiality or Non-Disclosure Agreements
Confidentiality agreements, otherwise known as non-disclosure agreements, are very similar to material transfer agreements, except that the 'material' being provided is information or know-how which the recipient must not disclose. These agreements have the potential to jeopardize a scholar's ability to publish the results of her own research efforts, so, as with material transfer agreements, these are not agreements to enter into lightly.
Collaboration & Sub-Grant/Contract Agreements
Much collaboration between university researchers happens informally, but if a research project will require a sustained collaborative effort or the sharing of resources between researchers at different institutions, it is vital to document the terms of the collaboration in a formal agreement.
Collaboration agreements are typically used in cases where institutions are collaborating on a project, each using their own resources (money, people, etc.). The collaboration may involve the sharing equipment or information, or it may simply be the regular contact between the institution's researchers. When financial resources are being transferred between collaborating institutions, a sub-grant or sub-contract agreement is used to clarify the obligations of each institution and to address the intellectual property issues.