Procedure for Dealing with Restrictions to Open Research

Procedure for Dealing with Restrictions to Open Research


Review relevant document (e.g., Request for Proposal or Request for Application, draft research agreement, draft Material Transfer Agreement).

Upon receipt of these documents, research administrators in the Office of Grant and Contract Administration (OGCA) or the University of Massachusetts Innovation Institute (UMII) review the document for clauses that:

A. Constrain the University from disclosing:

a. the existence of the contract or grant;

b. the identity of the sponsor or the grantor and, if a subcontract is involved, the identity of the prime contractor; and

c. the purpose and the scope of the proposed research in sufficient detail:

i. to permit informal discussion concerning the wisdom of such research within the University; and

ii. to inform colleagues in immediate and related disciplines of the nature and importance of the potential contribution to the disciplines involved

B. Limit the ability to disseminate fully and promptly the results of the research or specifically permit retroactive classification (other than standard clauses found in federal contract templates that are not germane to the research).

C. Restrict who can participate in the research project.


Determine whether research is "proprietary" or "restricted."

If research administrators find restrictive clauses, they will work with the Office of Research Compliance (ORC) export control staff to determine whether the clauses fit into the "proprietary" or "restricted" categories:

Proprietary research: Industrially-sponsored research that uses the sponsor's proprietary information or results in intellectual property for which the sponsor has an option to an exclusive license. These sponsors often request restrictions on who can discuss the research and under what circumstances. They also may prohibit publication of confidential company information or ask the researcher to delay publication of research results so that they can review the material for proprietary information or take steps to secure intellectual property rights to possible inventions.

The University accepts "proprietary" research agreements that do not restrict who can work on the project and do not request unreasonable (>12 months) publication delays. Agreements containing other restrictions fall under the definition of "restricted" research.

Restricted research: Research that is restricted in who can work on the project or how and when the researchers can discuss the results of the project. This type of research includes projects that are labeled as "sensitive but unclassified" by the sponsor.

Principal investigators seeking to conduct restricted research must request an exemption from the Openness in Research policy through the Office of Research Compliance (ORC) and approved by the Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement (VCRE).  Under expanded authority delegated by the University of Massachusetts President's Office (UMPO) to the Amherst campus, the VCRE is empowered to accept certain restricted research under the auspices of the UMII and with the technical assistance of ORC.  NOTE: The University will not accept government classified research (i.e., "secret" or "top secret").


If the research falls within the definition of restricted research, the research administrator refers the matter to the Office of Research Compliance (ORC) for analysis, technology control plans and to assist the principal investigator with the process of seeking an exemption to openness.


Negotiate to remove or amend restrictive clauses.

OGCA or UMII research administrators, with guidance and assistance from ORC as appropriate, will attempt to negotiate an agreement that is satisfactory to the potential sponsor and principal investigator, and in compliance with the University's policies and the principles of academic freedom.


Refuse the contract or request an exemption

If the sponsor does not agree to remove the restrictions, the principal investigator may opt to decline the award or to seek an exemption to Trustee policy requiring free and open dissemination of research results.


Initiate exemption Request.

The principal investigator must initiate the Exemption Request (Request for Exemption Form). This form facilitates the flow of information among the groups that will discuss and recommend approval or denial of the exemption request.

ORC will assist the principal investigator(s) in seeking the exemption.  To request an exemption, complete the steps below.  Note that sponsored research awards that deviate from standard policies, such as publication and dissemination norms, will be processed through UMII.


Complete the Request.

Within three business days for receiving the request, the directors of OGCA and ORC will complete their sections of the request documenting the circumstances and efforts made to negotiate more favorable terms and conditions as appropriate to the nature of the research.


Forward exemption request to the Open Research Committee.

ORC submits the exemption request to the office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement and assists the VCRE in convening an ad hoc advisory committee to evaluate it.  Typical composition of the ad hoc committee includes the department head/chair, the relevant dean and another "arm's length"dean, a Research Council member and Research and Engagement senior staff.


VCRE decision to grant or deny the exemption request.

Consistent with UMPO's delegation of authority, the VCRE makes the final decision, based upon the recommendations and input from the ad hoc advisory committee.  An affirmative decision by the VCRE will be predicated upon appropriate compliance protocols being initiated to mitigate any risks, including technology control plans or U.S. government licensing, if required.  Restricted agreements are processed under the auspices of UMII in accordance with the campus delegations received from the UMPO.


The Office of Research Compliance tracks requests for exemptions and provides reporting to campus stakeholders and governance groups, including the Faculty Senate Research Council and other interested offices, as necessary.



* this procedure has been adapted from materials developed by the University of Minnesota for similar purposes