Chapter 5 – Policies Pertaining to Research

Chapter 5 contents

5-A Research Proposals

5-B Classified and Proprietary Research

  • 5-B (1) Basic Principles
  • 5-B (2) Exceptions
  • 5-B (3) Scope and Applicability

5-C Research Involving Human Subjects

5-D Patent Policy

5-A Research Proposals

All faculty‑initiated proposals relating to research or training programs, whether made to private foundations, corporations, or government sponsors, must be transmitted to the prospective sponsor through regular USC channels, including the Department of Contracts and Grants.  Approaches to private sources of funding must be coordinated with the Office of the Senior Vice‑President, University Advancement, as well as submitted to the dean or Provost.  See the USC policy website. All proposals for sponsored research or training programs should utilize Proposal Approval Record forms to document approvals by academic and administrative officers before submission to the Department of Contract and Grants.  These should be prepared as far in advance of submission dates or deadlines as possible.  For more information on the preparation process, please consult the Department of Contracts and Grants website.

5-B Classified and Proprietary Research

The University policy regarding participation in classified or proprietary research is not to accept or to renew extramural contracts, grants, gifts or other agreements that restrict the rights of the faculty to free conduct of inquiry or to free scholarly dissemination of results within a reasonable time.

5-B (1) Basic Principles

This policy is based upon adherence to four basic principles.  The first of these is the critical importance of freedom of inquiry to the academic community.  The University does not presume to impose limits on the freedom of the faculty in the choice of fields or methods of inquiry, and cannot allow outside agencies to do so.  The second principle, closely linked to the first, is the importance of unrestricted scholarly dissemination of the results of research.  Scholarly publication or other means of access by interested persons to such results, normally including underlying data and procedures or analysis as well as final results, are essential elements in the progress of knowledge.  Similarly important is the third principle, that of open identification of the actual sources of funding for all sponsored programs.  The University must be free to disclose the existence of a project, the general nature of the inquiry, and the level and duration of funding as well as the identity of the sponsor.  Finally, the fourth principle involves the University’s recognition and protection of the legitimate rights of an outside sponsor, especially in terms of patent issues or possible disclosure of proprietary information.  Thus, the University may grant to a sponsor the privilege of review or temporary delay of publications as indicated under Exception (a) in Section 5-B (2).

5-B (2) Exceptions

Exceptions to the policy enunciated above are as follows:

(a)  The University may permit sponsor review and delay (normally not to exceed three months and never to exceed one year), but not denial of publication of results, for one of the following reasons:

  • If a project involves use of privileged, restricted, or export-controlled data from the sponsor;
  • If a project is only one task or element of a larger program and the release of result must be coordinated with others; or
  • If a project involves the development of a process or invention that may be patentable.  These publications should suitably protect the sponsor’s proprietary or confidential input data according to mutually agreed upon contractual requirements and normal standards of professional ethics.

(b)  The University may consent to the preparation of privileged reports to a sponsor such as technical reports and other materials produced specifically in satisfaction of a contract, provided that the purpose and the general results of the research remain publishable.  Such arrangements must be clearly established in the terms of agreement.

(c)  The University may permit faculty with appropriate security clearance to have access to classified facilities or to classified information outside the University, provided that such access is necessary to the conduct of the research and that neither the conduct nor the general results of the research are treated as classified within the University.

(d)  The University does not agree to participate in classified or export- controlled research, except in rare instances involving national security, exceptional national need, or other special circumstances.  Proposals for such exceptions must be reviewed and approved by a standing committee of faculty from a broad range of disciplines appointed by the Provost.

(e)  Finally, the University does not prohibit its faculty from engaging in individual consulting relationships with external organizations that may involve classified research.  Normal University policies governing consulting activity will apply in all such cases, and care must be taken to prevent the appearance of University participation in the classified research.

5-B (3) Scope and Applicability

This policy applies with equal force to all government, private, foreign‑sponsored projects, and to all gift agreements.  All agreements for sponsored projects must clearly state that University investigators retain full and free rights to publish the general results of their research in the manner accepted in the relevant discipline, except as provided in section 5-B (2).

5-C Research Involving Human Subjects

The University Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) are fully authorized to review all research proposals, whether funded or not, that are conducted by the faculty, staff, and graduate or undergraduate students, that involve the use of human subjects.  The University IRBs have been established to comply with regulations of various federal agencies, and are committed to conducting biomedical and behavioral research involving human subjects under rigorous ethical principles.  The IRBs are required to assure that:

  • Research methods are appropriate to the objectives of the research;
  • Research methods are the safest, consistent with sound research design;
  • Risks are justified in terms of related benefits to the subjects;
  • Subjects’ privacy is protected;
  • Subjects participate willingly and knowingly to the extent possible; and
  • Research projects are monitored by the IRBs.

For more information on the IRB review process, please consult the USC Institutional Review Board website.

5-D Patent Policy

A basic function of the University is to contribute to knowledge and culture by creative activity in all academic areas, and to disseminate the results of such creative activity by the most appropriate and effective means.  The securing of a patent, in certain circumstances, may be the most appropriate and effective means of disseminating the knowledge involved, and it is the general policy of the University to encourage and support production of such patents for the purpose of dissemination of knowledge.