14.1 Research Policy and Research Support

This policy was last updated May 16, 2024. See the update history page for more information.

The primary purpose of Institute research is to advance knowledge and further the educational program. Instruction and research are interdependent and both suffer when dealt with separately. These functions have, therefore, been integrated and interwoven throughout the entire academic and administrative structure.

The Institute also has an inherent obligation to render public service, especially to any branch of local, state, or federal government, and in fulfilling this special responsibility undertakes research when it can do so without impairing its primary functions and when its available personnel and facilities and its experience qualify it to perform a needed service.

Institute research programs receive substantial support through contracts, grants, and other arrangements with government, industry, and foundations. From the Institute's experience with such support, general conclusions have evolved as to the conditions under which it can be justified and the manner in which it can most effectively be integrated with other activities of the Institute. These conclusions are set forth in the following sections.

In addition, governmental and private sponsors provide support for the construction and renovation of facilities, fellowships and traineeships, curriculum improvement, teacher training, and other programs designed to strengthen graduate and undergraduate education. The suitability of these programs in relation to Institute activities and objectives has in most cases been evaluated using the same review procedures as are employed in the review of research proposals. Where the support is provided under agreements that create Institute obligations and contractual commitments to the sponsor, the delegation of administrative responsibility is the same as for sponsored research. To this extent the material that follows is also applicable to sponsored programs other than research.

14.1.1 General Research Considerations

The following are general considerations for research at the Institute:

  1. The Institute should not compete with industry in industrial research or undertake activities that should more properly be the responsibility of government agencies. Two factors may justify a secondary activity in such areas: the importance of practical creative activity on case material in any effective professional education and the responsibility of an educational institution to render public service.
  2. MIT is a private institution, under a broad charter from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, performing particular functions as determined by the Corporation. The Corporation and the administration must retain proper control of the operations carried on in the name of the Institute and remain free to operate without restrictions that would reduce its effectiveness.
  3. The Institute has an advantageous environment for research, due to such factors as independence and relative simplicity in management, employment, subcontracting, and methods of accounting, and possession of key staff and facilities. MIT cannot accept in research agreements any restrictive clauses that would jeopardize the very environment the Institute considers essential to the effective conduct of research, except in those rare instances where restrictions are accepted as provided for in Section 14.2 Open Research and Free Interchange of Information.
  4. In research, the sponsor and MIT have a joint and continuing obligation to provide not only the contractual and administrative environment but also the financial basis for a sound program of investigation. In general, MIT's resources are such that it cannot provide this environment except on a full cost-reimbursement basis, including direct and indirect costs.
  5. No person is permitted to use Institute facilities for sponsored research unless arrangements have been made through proper administrative channels as outlined in Section 14.4 Research Administration Services.

14.1.2 Criteria for Evaluating Research Proposals

In addition to the general research considerations outlined in Section 14.1.1, the criteria to be used in evaluating the acceptability of a proposed research program include the following:

  1. A departmental or interdepartmental laboratory of the Institute must be willing to accept responsibility for the program and must have faculty or staff members who are available and willing to supervise the program. The technical supervision of all research projects is the responsibility of the individuals directing them, who in turn are responsible to their department heads (unless this responsibility has been explicitly vested elsewhere).
  2. It must be possible to conduct the project without overloading the academic staff and without detriment to the educational program.
  3. The project must not encroach on space and facilities required by the educational program. Availability of space and equipment must be assured in advance by the department head and dean concerned, or by the Provost if any renovation or building changes are contemplated or if space outside the jurisdiction of the department head will be involved.
  4. The project must come within the volume of research (measured in dollars, space, personnel, and required amount of administrative attention) that the Institute can appropriately undertake. It must also fit into a balanced, overall program.

14.1.3 Disposition or Transfer of Equipment

In order to comply with its charter and meet its educational objectives, MIT must hold in public trust any property in which it has acquired ownership and must relinquish such property only when it would more effectively serve the scientific or educational objectives for which it was acquired or when it is necessary to fulfill MIT obligations to donors or research sponsors.

Equipment subject to the control of or restrictions imposed by a donor or research sponsor will be disposed of in accordance with those restrictions. Equipment in which MIT has title without restriction or limitation may be relinquished by MIT only under limited circumstances. Consequently, project supervisors who wish to initiate a request for disposition or transfer of equipment purchased under a sponsored program should consult the Property Office Disposal Officer in advance of the desired transfer date.

14.1.4 Financial and Business Administration

Research Administration Services is responsible for financial and business policies and procedures for sponsored research, including those designed to meet the requirements of grants and contracts. The Director of Research Administration Services is the contracting officer of the Institute and is directly responsible for the negotiation and interpretation of sponsored research contracts and grants, including basic agreements, and for negotiating the reimbursement of indirect costs and employee benefits, but this may be delegated in part to other officers of the Institute.

While retaining Institute-wide responsibility for business and financial activities related to sponsored research, the Executive Vice President may delegate specific operational responsibility and authority to the Director of Lincoln Laboratory.