Checklist for research agreements
Knowledge and intellectual property
The Professors privilege (Teachers exemption)
As an employee of Uppsala universitet, you are covered by the so-called professor’s privilege (also known as the Teachers exemption). In brief, this means you own the results of your research.
Externally funded research is sometimes based on the condition that the financier shall own or may use the results of the research. Participation in such projects is voluntary, but if you agree to participate, you have accepted the conditions, also when comprising your knowledge and/or restricting your rights according to the professor’s privilege. In other words, if the agreement between the university and the financier state that the financier will own the research results from the project, you accept that ownership of your results are transferred to the financier, without any additional compensation to you beyond that which may be regulated in the agreement.
Since the contractual terms between the university and the financier may have direct impact on your rights according to the professor’s privilege, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the terms of the agreement before you accept the project. This is also your opportunity to influence the terms. Please contact the Legal Affairs Division to communicate your views on the agreement at the earliest stage possible of the contract negotiations, in order to get the most efficient assistance in influencing the terms of the agreement.
The Legal Affairs Divsion recommend that the principal investigator confirm the terms for the project in writing. This is to avoid misapprehansion regaring the matter. For this there is a draft Conditions for participation in the following project at Uppsala University. The PI is responsible for securing that no researcher participate in the project that has not accepted the prerequisites for the project.
The earlier you contact the Legal Affairs Division during the planning phase of a project, the greater is our possibilities of influencing the terms of the financing.Once the agreement has been signed, the terms apply to everyone participating in the project, including terms regarding ownership of knowledge.
When you initiate or join an existing research project, you will be bringing your experience and knowledge (protected or unprotected intellectual property) from earlier projects and research. Such background knowledge might be useful in the new project. However, you should ask yourself if and, in such case, to what extent you want your project partners to have to your background knowledge.
In joint projects (i.e., projects co-financed by the participating institutions), it is common for researchers to have access to each other’s background knowledge for work within the project. This access often includes an additional right to use another party’s background knowledge also outside the scope of the project, if it is necessary in order to utilize results. This license to another party’s background knowledge is commonly associated with a certain amount of monetary compensation or with a counter license. Also for commissioned research (i.e., projects fully financed by a sponsor), the financier sometimes is given the right to use the researchers’ background knowledge. Also for this use, monetary compensation is not uncommon.
Give some thought to how much you want your research partners or the sponsors of a commissioned research to have access to your background knowledge. If you decide to give them access, should this be in return of some kind of compensation?
Your work on a project will unarguably generate some kind of result. What aspects would you like to apply to these results?
For commissioned research, it is not uncommon that the results are the property of the sponsor. It should be pointed out that only in cases of commissioned research, i.e. research with a 100 % funding, does the university accept that the results are automatically turned over to the financier. Sometimes this entails a certain amount of personal compensation to the researcher that has generated the result.
For research cooperation’s, the results normally accrue to the person or party that has generated the result. Sometimes it isn’t possible to determine a single member of the project as the originator. If nothing else has been stipulated in the contract, the project originators of the result then own the results together, through joint ownership. It is highly recommended that conditions for joint ownership are regulated in the initial project agreement, to avoid lock-in effects of the results and conflicts between the joint owners. One such regulation should, for instance, address the issue of whether it will be possible for a joint owner to patent and/or license or commercialize the results without the consent of the other owners.
Under all circumstances, the university reserves the right to use research results for future research and tuition at the university (so-called research license). It is important that the research license be written into the agreement so that future basic research at the university does not bring with it any charges.
Give some thought to what you feel should apply to the results of your research. Who owns them and how should others be allowed to use them? Make sure you can legally continue to research with the knowledge you acquired through the project.
Confidentiality and scientific publications
It is natural and often vital for research assignments and joint research projects to be carried out with a certain degree of confidentiality. As a university employee, you are bound not only by the confidentiality that has been agreed upon for the project but also by confidentiality regulations that applies to the university according to Swedish law. This may imply limitations to how you are allowed to discuss the project with others and how you are allowed to publish the results.
The position of the university is that it will never accept commissions or to participate in collaborations if it means that the results cannot be scientifically published by the participating researcher within a reasonable amount of time. This means that even if you don’t pertain to publish the results from a certain project, it is nonetheless important that the project agreement include the right to be able to do so. This is to ensure that the university’s integrity cannot be called into question and that no inferior examples will affect researchers in future agreements.
Think about whether you feel you are at ease with the confidentiality clauses of the agreement. Will you be able, for example, to communicate information to others to the extent you need to?
The agreement will almost always contain rules for how the results are to be published. These often imply that publication may be delayed for a certain amount of time. Does this period of time seem reasonable to you? If there are doctoral candidates in the project, it is especially important that the time period be reasonable, since delayed publication can lead to a delayed degree.
In brief, there are two types of agreements at the university that regulate externally funded research: agreements on commissioned activities (sv: uppdragsforskningsavtal) and agreements on funding (sv: bidragsavtal). When the university is co-funding a project, it is called a collaboration agreement (sv: samarbetsavtal).
A commission (agreements on commissioned activities) means that the sponsor fully funds the project (direct and indirect expenses at the university). In return, the sponsor is awarded a certain right to the results of the project. If the sponsor does not fully fund the project, it is something else than commission and consequently, the sponsor has no right to the results of the project.
Contribution (agreements on funding) means that the sponsor makes a contribution to research without any demands to the results of the research. Conditions concerning that the university report on how the funds are used or inform the sponsor of the findings or accept a certain amount of co-financing are acceptable
In cases of collaboration research (collaboration agreements), all the collaborating parties contribute to the project. The research results belong to the members who are the originator of the results.
Give thought to what kind of funding you project has been granted. Underfunded commissions are sometimes mistakenly called contributions or collaborations. The university does not accept such commissions.
If you need help wording contracts please feel free to contact one of the University lawyers Johan Asker tel 471 7419, Louise Bark tel 471 7417, Helene Ekizean tel 471 7457 or Johan Hammarberg tel 471 2074.