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December 10, 2015

Input sought on copyright, patent, COI policies

Faculty, staff and students are being invited to submit comments and suggestions as part of a review of the University’s patent, copyright and conflict of interest policies.

Mark Redfern, vice provost for research, is heading the policy review committee, which has been charged by Provost Patricia E. Beeson with recommending policy revisions to “improve the ability of our faculty to work productively with external partners and effectively translate research in ways that will support the University’s shared goal to enhance the beneficial impact of our work on society.”

The committee’s aim is to align Pitt’s policies with the University’s goals. Commercialization of the University is not the intent, Redfern said. “Our main goal is to have impact in the world.”

The committee is working under five guiding principles:

Policies should:

• Lead Pitt to serve the public good and address societal needs with the greatest impact possible.

• Advance the education of undergraduate and graduate students.

• Encourage professional development of faculty, staff and students.

• Facilitate cooperation with industrial and governmental institutions to transfer knowledge.

• Support social, intellectual and economic development of the state, nation and world.


The committee has been at work since September and hopes to propose policy changes by the end of the spring term, Redfern said, adding that some policies have remained unchanged since the 1990s.

Those proposals, which must be approved by the provost and the chancellor, would pass through the necessary reviews by the Council of Deans and the University Senate. Any that impact University bylaws would need Board of Trustees approval, Redfern said.

His hope is that the revisions will be completed and in effect by September.

The committee has been working through three subcommittees:  patent rights, technology transfer and data ownership, chaired by bioengineering faculty member Bill Federspiel; copyright policy, chaired by law faculty member Michael Madison; and conflict of interest and consulting policy, chaired by chemistry faculty member Craig Wilcox.

Redfern said the committee has discussed key issues in each of the policies and has benchmarked other universities’ policies.

In addition, the subcommittees have reached out to “expert users,” including individuals who have interacted with the conflict of interest committee, submitted invention disclosures or gone through the commercialization process.

Now the committee is reaching out more broadly through questionnaires posted at

Separate surveys on patents, copyright and conflict of interest ask members of the University community to share their experiences with how Pitt’s current policies and/or procedures “aided or interfered inappropriately with” their activities and seek suggestions on improvements. A separate survey invites general comments.

Respondents may provide input anonymously or include contact information if they’d like follow-up from the committee, Redfern said.

The online questionnaires will be open through mid-January. “Every one will be read,” Redfern said.

The committee’s web page also includes links to the policies under review and to selected articles on issues related to intellectual property and conflict of interest issues.

—Kimberly K. Barlow        

Filed under: Feature,Volume 48 Issue 8

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