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Policy 41 – Contract* Research at University of Waterloo

Established: April 11, 1972 

Last updated: September 1, 1976 

Class: FS

1. General

A university supported by public funds should, along with the responsibility of teaching and conducting research, encourage those of its members who are so inclined to provide a service to society by undertaking work aimed at solving social, business and technical problems.

Universities are an important source of potential assistance, not only through the varied academic expertise, but also in sophisticated facilities that they possess.

Society has the right to benefit from its investment in both these capabilities. However, special work, such as that done under contract for a business firm or government department must not adversely affect university standards or be an added expense to the university.

Research done at universities generally involves students, faculty and facilities. Financial support for this research is provided by grants and contracts as well as by normal university budgets. While the distinction between grants and contracts is not always clear cut, there are basic differences:

2. Definitions

A. Grant

A grant is financial support for an investigator working in a particular field without any formal detailed stipulations as to the subject matter of such research. Investigators are free to discuss their work with their colleagues and to publish their findings and interpretation of them.

B. Contract

A contract is an agreement providing financial support for an investigator working in a particular field under specific stipulations and conditions as specified in the contract. These stipulations and specifications may specifically outline the scope and nature of the research to be carried out, together with such matters as patent and publication rights, timing, student participation, and confidentiality.

3. Scope of Research

The University, in accordance with its function of maintaining a free flow of knowledge, desires that the results of University research be made generally available. While it acknowledges the general freedom of its personnel to engage in research of their choosing, the provision of departmental resources for contract research will nevertheless be subject to the final approval of the respective Chair (and where necessary the Dean) provided that, in the matter of grants, where such approval is denied an appeal may be made to the Senate Graduate & Research Council.

4. Publication Rights

There are no publication restrictions on research supported by grants and general University funds. On the other hand, when contracts are negotiated, while all efforts should be made to provide for the reservation of academic publication rights to the investigators (if they so wish), these publication rights may in the interest of the sponsor be subject to a reasonable delay. The details of these restrictions are to be included in the contract, and the University investigators made aware of them.

5. Confidential Information

In order to undertake certain work, it may be necessary to disclose confidential information to the person who will either do or oversee the work. This is standard professional practice and such information should be used with discretion.

6. Student Participation

Students may participate in contractual research under the direction of a faculty member. Students who choose to become involved in contractual research must be informed of, and agree by signature to, the terms of the contract, including any stipulations regarding confidentiality and publications. Where graduate students are involved, this research may become part or all of their required thesis presentation, so students' publication rights for such work must be protected by the terms of the contract and the terms affording this protection must be approved by the appropriate academic officers of the Faculty in which the students are registered. This is a matter of utmost importance to the student because the thesis defense is the culmination of the scholarly activities of a graduate student, and includes a public presentation. The basic data and results of experiments pertinent to the thesis presentation must also be open to public scrutiny. Only under these conditions can the merit of the research be properly judged.

Students may be encouraged to participate in contract work insofar as it exposes them to "real world" problems, but this participation should not be coerced or undertaken where the progress of their degree programs would thereby be significantly retarded.


* Contracts referred to in this document are those undertaken by the University.

(Policy updated July 2003, to reflect amalgamation of Senate Graduate & Research Council.)