While it is expected that research results will be published, care must be taken with three types of information gathered or developed during the course of research: (1) personal and private information about identifiable individuals — often an issue in clinical and social science research; (2) industry know-how, trade secrets and proprietary information provided by sponsors — of concern in both Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs) and Industry Sponsored Research Agreements (ISRAs); and (3) business information such as office manuals and procedures — often an issue in service contracts.
Agreements to accept confidential information need not involve funding; for example, access to a data set may require signing a confidentiality agreement. In some cases it may be possible for an individual to accept confidential information that the university would not be able to accept. The university Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) should approve any agreements involving the acceptance of confidential information by the university before they are signed. Key negotiation issues typically associated with the acceptance of confidential information include the following:
- Can the PI conduct the research without compromise?
- Will other scholars be able to verify and/or replicate the research results?
- Will the PI and students involved with the project be free to publish their research results?
- Are there any adverse financial implications for the university?