George Mason University      
Ownership and Maintenance of Research Records

The full text of the policy in pdf format: [The revised policy has been sent to Deans and Directors for review and comment by Nov. 14, 2008.]

Responses to questions from faculty in pdf format: research-records-concerns-responses-11-12-08.pdf

May 29, 2008
From:      Barry W. Stevens, Director, Research Policy Development
Subject:  University Policy on Ownership and Maintenance of Research Records

This memorandum transmits for your review a proposed new university policy on the ownership and maintenance of research records.  By consensus, the committee that developed this policy endorses its contents and recommends that it be adopted by the university.  The members of the policy development committee were the following:

Dan Polsby, Dean, School of Law,
Peter Barcher, Associate Dean, College of Education and Human Development,
Chris Hill, Professor, School of Public Policy,
Sheryl Beach, Associate Professor, College of Science,
Matt Kluger, Vice President for Research and Economic Development,
Jennifer Murphy, Director, Office of Technology Transfer, and
Tom Moncure, University Counsel, who reviewed the policy for legal sufficiency.

I chaired the committee and served as facilitator, researcher, and drafter.

A policy on this topic is needed to protect the university’s interest in ensuring that records supporting the findings of its researchers are complete, responsibly maintained, and available for review in appropriate circumstances, to meet the obligations of sponsors, and to protect the intellectual property rights of both the university and inventors.  And no concern is more central to members of the university community who engage in scholarly research than protecting the integrity of the research enterprise.

          The proposed policy supplements the university’s policy on records management in addressing issues relating to the collection and maintenance of research records in particular.  The principal features of the policy are the following: 

          a. The policy confirms that research records are the property of the university.  “Research record” is defined to include only "the record, in any form or medium (including original research notebooks), of data, results, methods, or protocols, that –
          (1) Embody the facts resulting from scholarly inquiry or, in the case of research methods and protocols, describe how those facts were obtained, within the scope of an individual's employment or enrollment at the university; and
          (2) Are commonly accepted in the relevant research community as necessary to validate research findings.”
Records created by students are more strictly limited.  Thus, much of the material produced in the course of scholarly inquiry is outside the scope of the policy and not subject to its terms.

          b. It secures the researcher’s right, in most cases, to retain copies of records he or she creates and to use the records in subsequent research and in publicizing research findings.

          c. It assigns the researcher the responsibility for the collection and maintenance of research records and charges department Chairs (or, in their absence, Deans and Institute Directors) with the responsibility for oversight of the practices of their faculty and students.  Assistance regarding methods for maintaining records in hard copy and electronic form may be obtained from the University Records Manager.

          d. It requires that research records remain under the control of either the researcher (or his or her Chair, Dean, or Director) or the University Records Manager except when the Vice President for Research authorizes an exception for good cause.  When a researcher leaves the university, custody of original records may be transferred if the researcher and his or her Chair, Dean, or Director enter into an agreement that ensures the retention of the records for the period required for other Mason research records and appropriate access to those records.

          e. It requires that, in most cases, records be retained for only the period required by regulations of The Library of Virginia adopted pursuant to the Virginia Public Records Act.


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