Research Policies and Procedures

The Office of the Vice President for Research has overall responsibility for research administration and policies related to research at the Institute. The Institute is committed to responsible and ethical conduct of research and stewardship of sponsored funds. Our commitment is reflected in many of our policies and procedures, which serve the dual purpose of expressing MIT’s core values and promoting our compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

Animal Subjects

The Division of Comparative Medicine oversees biomedical research involving animals. All projects involving live vertebrate animals must be reviewed and approved by the Committee on Animal Care.

Appointments for Research Staff and Visitors

There are many appointment types for individuals involved in research activities at the Institute. Each type of appointment is intended for individuals with particular qualifications and responsibilities. It is important that the appropriate appointment be used to ensure access to benefits and compliance with applicable Institute policies.

A summary of the common appointment types and key distinctions can be found on these pages:
Research and Academic Appointments
Visiting and Affiliate Appointments

Broad Institute Collaborations 

The Broad Institute, founded by the generosity and vision of Eli and Edythe Broad, engages faculty, professional staff, and students from across the MIT and Harvard academic and medical communities. Guidelines and procedural information for faculty and staff wishing to participate in research collaborations with, funded by or at the Broad Institute can be found in the Broad-MIT Coordination Document

Export Control Policy

MIT’s policy is to fully comply with all U.S. export control laws and regulations. Details of the Institute’s export control compliance program are available through the Office of Sponsored Programs.

Financial Conflict of Interest Policy

MIT policy requires that MIT officers, faculty, and staff and others acting on its behalf avoid or mitigate real or perceived financial conflicts of interest and ensure that their Outside Professional Activities and interests do not conflict with their obligations to MIT or its welfare.

Human Subjects 

All projects involving the use of human subjects, including surveys, must be reviewed and either approved or ruled exempt by the Committee on the Use of Humans as Experimental Subjects (COUHES) before any work can begin.

While a great deal of research involves the use of human subjects, the Institute does not accept sponsored funding for clinical trials. MIT researchers may participate in the non-clinical trial aspects of research along with a cooperating institution which accepts responsibility for the management of the clinical trials and liability for the project. MIT makes available its unique facilities (such as the nuclear reactor) for clinical trial activities where, although MIT faculty may be involved in the research program, they are not responsible or carry liability for the clinical trial aspects of the project. Additional information and clarification of this policy can be found on the Office of Sponsored Programs website. 

Intellectual Property

The aim of the Institute’s policy on patents, copyrights, and other Intellectual Property is to make available Institute technology to industry and others for the public benefit, while providing recognition to individual inventors and encouraging the prompt and open dissemination of research results. The Committee on Intellectual Property recommends policy guidelines to the administration. All employees, graduate students and visitors to the Institute must sign an Invention and Proprietary Information Agreement

When Intellectual Property is developed by MIT faculty, students, staff, visitors, or others participating in MIT programs using significant MIT funds or facilities, MIT will own the Intellectual Property. If the material is not subject to a sponsored research or other agreement giving a third party rights, the issue of whether or not a significant use was made of MIT funds or facilities will be reviewed by the inventor's/author's laboratory director or department head, and a recommendation forwarded to the Technology Licensing Office (TLO). The Vice President for Research will make the final decision on this issue and on any dispute or interpretation of policy relating to Intellectual Property. The complete policy statement is set forth in the Guide to the Ownership, Distribution and Commercial Development of MIT Technology (Guide), which is available from the Technology Licensing Office (TLO). Additional policy information on Intellectual Property, Ownership of Intellectual Property and Significant Use of MIT-Administered Resources can be found in Policies and Procedures 13.1

International Travel

In the course of their research, members of the MIT community may wish to travel to countries that entail safety, health, or political risk. U.S. sanctioned programs and export controls restrict travel to some countries, as well as what can be taken and what can be done in the destination country. Details regarding travel to countries or areas with restrictions are available through the International Coordinating Committee.

Lobbying Activities

The Institute must report regularly all lobbying activities which include oral, written or electronic communications to a government official regarding federal legislation, administration or execution of a Federal program or policy, formulation, modification or adoption of a federal rule, regulation, Executive order, policy or government position or the nomination or confirmation of a person subject to confirmation by the Senate. Details regarding activities that are considered lobbying, and the process for disclosing lobbying activities can be found on the Office of Sponsored Programs website. 

Minors Working, Interning or Visiting Departments, Laboratories or Centers

MIT encourages the departments, laboratories and centers to provide educational programming to minors in a safe, professional and responsible manner. Individuals agreeing to host a minor intern or visitor should verify whether there are any specific approval processes required by their school or department. Guidelines and procedures are available on MIT’s Human Resources website; these guidelines do not apply to enrolled MIT students who are minors. The policy on employment of minors can be found in the highlighted in the Personnel Policy Manual.

Outside Professional Activities

The Institute’s policies governing outside professional activities are designed to encourage active participation in research enriched in many cases by interaction with industry, business, government, and other activities and institutions. Information for MIT Faculty regarding Outside Professional Activities is available in MIT’s Policies and Procedures §4.5. Department heads and center/laboratory directors counsel faculty and researchers regarding specific cases. The Faculty Policy Committee recommends appropriate modifications of policies and procedures to the Faculty.

Non-faculty research staff are subject to specific rules concerning outside professional activities depending on their position at the Institute and detailed in Policies and Procedures §2.0, §5.0, and §6.0 for each appointment type.

A summary of the common appointment types and consulting privileges normally conferred can be found at the Outside Professional Activities page.

Principal Investigator Status

Principal Investigators are entrusted by the Institute with the responsibility to independently design, conduct, and supervise sponsored projects. Faculty, Principal Research Scientist, Principal Research Engineer, Principal Research Associate are accorded principal investigator status by virtue of their appointment. Other individuals may be granted PI status on a per-project basis by the senior officer for the unit where the research would be conducted upon recommendation of the department head or laboratory/center director.

Record Retention for Financial Transactions  

Legal and audit requirements dictate how long financial and other records related to sponsored programs must be maintained. Generally, records related to federal grants and cooperative agreements must be retained for three years from the date of submission of the final expenditure report. For federal contracts, records must be retained for three years after the final payment. Individual grants and contracts from non-federal sponsors may stipulate a different timeframe. The importance of retaining financial records and additional details related to retention times and responsibilities can be found on the Office of Sponsored Programs website.

Salary Certification Policy

Compensation costs (salary and benefits) represent a significant portion of expenses charged to sponsored programs. It is Institute policy to have each Quarterly Salary Distribution Report (Quarterly DACCA) certified by the appropriate individual. The Principal Investigator/Cost Object Certifier, in association with the head of the DLC or administrative office, is ultimately responsible for making sure that all cost objects with payroll charges are certified in accordance with Institute policy.

Undergraduates, High School and Junior High Students and Teachers Engaged in Biological Research

As part of the MIT mission, faculty and principal investigators engage undergraduates, high school and junior high students and teachers in MIT research activities. The safety of these individuals is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator. The policy on the supervision and oversight required is in the policy document at this page: http://web.mit.edu/cab/policies.html 

Use of the MIT Name

The widely recognized MIT name and its associated seals, marks, symbols, logos, and photographic images (together referred to as “name and marks”) are among MIT”s most valuable asses, representing the high caliber of MIT’s faculty and students and conveying the quality and breadth of MIT’s accomplishments. Faculty, students and staff share in the benefits associated with MIT’s name and marks, and therefore also share responsibilities concerning their use.

The Technology Licensing Office provides guidance to faculty and staff around appropriate use of the MIT name and marks. These uses include individual identification by affiliation in activities not directly related to MIT such as independent consulting (e.g., Jane Smith, Professor of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Assistance is also provided related to use of names in business relationships with third parties.

Underrecovery of Research Facilities and Administration (F&A) Costs

Whenever a sponsor does not allow the Institute to charge the full rate for recovery of facilities and administration (F&A) or indirect costs, it creates an underrecovery. This occurs most frequently with foundation sponsors.

MIT policy requires that underrecovery of F&A on research activities funded by sponsored awards be identified and funded internally. The Vice President for Research is committed to supporting research projects that incur underrecovery of F&A and is working with the deans across all areas to identify resources. The process for securing funds to offset F&A underrecovery varies across departments, laboratories and centers, and within each school. Principal Investigators who are considering applying for foundation support should consult with their local administration and/or dean’s office for details on the internal process.

An overview of underrecovery and the process for administering awards with underrecovery can be found at  the Vice President for Finance's page: F&A Underrecovery on Research WBS Elements

Visa Program and International Students and Scholars

The Institute’s research enterprise values and supports a diverse population comprised of more than 5,000 international students and scholars. While supporting and encouraging the exchange of students and scholars, the Institute must also comply with federal regulations regarding the employment of foreign nationals (non-United States citizens and non-permanent residents).

The International Scholars Office (ISchO) is responsible for handling applications and providing information regarding visas for foreign academic staff and sponsored research staff. ISchO is MIT's liaison with immigration authorities regarding this population. DLC staff are encouraged to contact ISchO as many months as possible in advance of the desired appointment date. The International Students Office offers similar services for international students.

Visiting Students

MIT faculty may invite students who are pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree at an institution of higher education other than MIT to conduct academic research in their field of studies. When a student is invited by a faculty member in this way, he or she may apply for visiting student status; the student cannot be invited as an employee or intern. 

Visiting student appointments are limited to 12 months. Faculty hosts must pay a processing fee of $1,000 using discretionary (non-sponsored) funds unless written approval from the sponsor is provided with the appointment form. Registration fees must be paid to Student Financial Services prior to registering for each term. Registration and processing fees are automatically waived for students from Harvard University and Wellesley College due to institutional commitments to cross-registration. Memos issued by the Office of the Vice President for Research on April 12, 2012 (link to pdf) and May 25, 2012  provide additional details regarding the Visiting Students Policy.

The International Students Office handles all visiting student applications (including those of US citizens). Details on the process and appropriate forms can be found at https://web.mit.edu/iso/iso/visiting/visitor.shtml

Additional policy information can be found in Policies and Procedures §5.5.