Provost’s office announces review of corporate relations, research policies

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The Office of the Provost has announced that a review of the University’s corporate relations and related research policies will take place over the next academic year.

Harvard regularly interacts with private corporations and outside entities to support, enable, and inform its scholarship. Academic-industry engagements can provide resources for research programs and facilities, and they are increasingly vital to generating the knowledge, data, and capabilities our researchers need to remain at the leading edge of discovery in fields like business, biomedicine, artificial intelligence, and quantum technologies.

The University has robust policies to guide corporate relations and has processes for reviewing potential collaborative agreements to ensure that they support academic freedom and core institutional values, avoid conflicts of interest, and align with the needs and priorities of the University and its constituents. The provost’s office regularly reviews those policies to ensure they remain relevant and applicable. Given the quickly shifting landscape of research, it will begin a review of these existing policies and processes in the coming weeks. It will establish two ad hoc committees to explore these critical questions. Both will be supported by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research and will coordinate their work to ensure consistency and alignment in policies and approaches.

“Partnerships with industry can help inform and strengthen our intellectual mission, support our students and scholars, and translate our research discoveries to benefit society more broadly,” said University Provost and Chief Academic Officer Alan M. Garber. “Those relationships have never been more vital than in today’s quickly changing research landscape. I look forward to the recommendations the committees will develop, which will clarify how the University and the members of its community might best work with corporations.”

The first committee, the Corporate Relations Research Policy Committee, will be chaired by John Shaw, vice provost for research and the Harry C. Dudley Professor of Structural and Economic Geology (FAS) and professor of environmental science and engineering (SEAS). It will review the current policies and practices for engaging with corporate entities. Made up of senior faculty and leadership from across the Schools and central administration offices, it is charged with defining acceptable forms of corporate engagement, establishing clear and consistent standards for assessing potential sponsors, recommending implementation processes, and clarifying best practices around communication, oversight, and accountability.

The second committee, the Corporate Relations Researcher Engagement Committee, will be chaired by Amy Wagers, co-chair of the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology and the Forst Family Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology. This committee will work to define the appropriate roles for faculty, staff, students, and postdoctoral fellows in corporate sponsored research agreements and provide recommendations for avoiding both real and perceived conflicts of interest. Including faculty and staff from various Schools, central administration offices, and the standing Committee on Financial Conflicts of Interest (FCOI), the committee will review existing policies and recommend changes to both promote and safeguard University-corporate relationships.

The committees will kick off their work in the coming weeks and meet several times during the fall semester and possibly into the following spring. For more information on this initiative, as well as details on future community engagement opportunities as they arise, see Corporate Engagement. Individuals are encouraged to share their comments about Harvard’s corporate engagement policies by emailing the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.