Industry-Sponsored Research Week

Don’t let details of visiting scientist agreements get lost in the shuffle


By David Schwartz
Published: February 5th, 2019

While leading an interactive discussion on visiting scientist agreements at the recent UIDP27 meeting in Chicago, Carolyn M. Brougham, JD, senior contracts officer in the Office for Sponsored Research at Northwestern University, noted that “the big question we dealt with is how the ‘sausage’ is made, and who quarterbacks for the university?”

As with many of the key elements the session addressed, Brougham says there are a variety of answers to both questions. For example, she says, some universities turn the lead over to the office of general counsel, while other options can include the sponsored research office, the research Dean’s office, or even the TTO.

“There’s not a clear winner of who takes point,” she summarizes. However, adds Brougham, “to me it does not matter so much who is the right person as much as it is who knows what to do.”

At most universities, she continues, there is not one single office that does a great job playing QB. “My office helps negotiate contractual terms, but it also needs input from the TTO if we have to negotiate IP terms, or HR for visa requirements,” notes Brougham. “You need to make sure the PI knows exactly what the parameters are; that the [Office of General Counsel] knows what sort of liability there might be; that risk management makes sure the insurance is sufficient.”

Some universities, she adds, do classified work. In those cases, they may need to run things through the export control compliance office. “They would be another key player in the massive universe of the stakeholders who need to be consulted,” she observes.

“Our agreement and the signing thereof now resides on the regulatory side,” reports Melissa L. Matsil, JD, director of the Office of Corporate Contracts at Rutgers University (it used to reside in her department). “The signatory is our export control officer; we force the discipline by making the signatory be a regulatory officer.”

Her department always has the option of contacting the regulatory office for export control regulations when reviewing an agreement. “Everything must be screened,” she explains. “If it is a foreign visitor here on a visa and they are from an embargoed country, they will likely not come.”

However, she adds, if they are not on an embargoed list, there is still a list the federal government reviews with more careful scrutiny, especially in light of recent disputes with China regarding IP and trade. “We receive visiting scientists from China all the time; for this particular company we have had visitors, but from now on they’re on a very high security list,” says Matsil.

Would Rutgers accept a visiting scientist from that company today? “Right now we would,” she says, “but we may have to create a technology control plan — a blueprint for what they would have access to. And the mentoring faculty will have to take responsibility for ensuring that the plan is executed properly.”

A detailed article on managing visiting scientist agreements appears in the premiere January issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For information on a subscription and how to save $100 on the subscription price with our charter subscription offer, CLICK HERE

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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