University Policies

Equipment Equipment is defined by the federal government and Fisk University guidelines as an article of non-expendable personal property having a useful life of more than one year and an acquisition cost of $5,000 or more per unit (this definition does not include computers). Items which do not meet these criteria are classified as “Supplies”. Accessories, component parts and installation cost of an item of equipment should be classified as part of the basic unit cost of the equipment. Do not list such charges separately. Replacement parts and computer software are classified as supplies. For most applications, justification must be provided for requests to purchase items of equipment that appear to duplicate or be equivalent to items already available in the research environment. It is a requirement to obtain three bids for equipment or personal property type items which exceed $3,000 in value. Where three bids are not possible, justification or explanation must be provided.

Use of Equipment These procedural guidelines are intended to define general Federal policies that govern the allowable uses of equipment on Federally sponsored projects for activities beyond those which are covered by the sponsored project. The Federal regulations that govern equipment use are identified in OMB Circular A-110. Principal Investigators and Project Directors (PI/PD’s) should review their specific awards and consult the guidelines of the sponsoring agency, (for example NSF Important Notice 91) and the applicable version of A-110 prior to making final decisions.

  1. Equipment Ownership: Title to equipment acquired by a grant with Federal funds or non-Federal funds shall be vested in the University subject to conditions contained in OMB Circular A-110 Section 34.
  2. Use After Project Period:The Investigator shall use the equipment in the project or program for which it was acquired as long as needed, whether or not the project or program continues to be supported by Federal funds. When no longer needed for the original project or program, the recipient shall use the equipment in connection with its other federally-sponsored activities, in the following order of priority:
    1. Activities sponsored by the Federal awarding agency which funded the original project, then,
    2. Activities sponsored by other Federal awarding agencies.
    3. Other University uses

    During the time that equipment is used on the project or program for which it was acquired, the recipient may make it available for use on other projects or programs if such other use will not interfere with the work on the project or program for which the equipment was originally acquired.

    First preference for such other use shall be given to other projects or programs sponsored by the Federal awarding agency that financed the equipment; second preference shall be given to projects or programs sponsored by other Federal awarding agencies.

    If the equipment is owned by the Federal Government, use on other activities not sponsored by the Federal Government shall be permissible if authorized by the Federal awarding agency.

    During the Project Period, all charges for the used equipment shall be treated as program income.
  3. Inventory Control A log should be kept of all equipment purchased by an individual and/or department. Information needed includes:
    • Source of funds (include name of agency and budget number)
    • Date of purchase
    • Equipment purchased
    • Amount of purchase
    • Room location of equipment


Co-Authorship of Scholarly Reports, Papers and Publications

It is the policy of Fisk University that proper credit be given to those individuals who make material contributions to activities which lead to scholarly reports, papers and publications.


Rigid prescriptive requirements in this area are considered unwise, because the situation with respect to co-authorship varies from one discipline to another and from one publication to another. Nevertheless, it is recommended that the authors of scholarly reports, papers and publications abide by the following principles regarding co-authorship.

  1. Co-authorship should be offered to anyone who has clearly made a material contribution to the work.
    Moreover, each co-author should be furnished with a copy of the manuscript before it is submitted, and allowed an opportunity to review it prior to submission. An author submitting a paper, report or publication should never include the name of a co-author without the person’s consent. Exceptional circumstances, such as death or inability to locate a co-author, should be handled on a case by case basis. In cases where the contribution may have been marginal, an acknowledgment of the contribution in the publication might be more appropriate than co-authorship.
  2. In the case of theses for advanced degrees, if the thesis or paper based upon it is not published with the degree recipient as sole author, then that person should normally be listed as the first author. In no instance should theses, or papers based upon them, be published under the sole authorship of the thesis advisor.
  3. Anyone accepting co-authorship of a paper must realize that this action implies a responsibility as well as a privilege. As a general rule, each co-author should understand the content of the publication well enough to be able to take responsibility for all of it, otherwise the publication should clearly indicate the parts for which each co-author has responsibility. If a potential co-author has doubts concerning the correctness of the content or conclusions of a publication, and if these doubts cannot be dispelled by consultation with the other co-authors, the individual should decline co-authorship

Intellectual Property

The Fisk University Policy on Intellectual Property, Copyrights, Inventions and Patents is available.

Patent Policy

University personnel who believe they may have developed an invention should immediately notify the Office of Sponsored Programs. The title of a patent for any discovery or invention made by an employee of Fisk University belongs to the said employee and he/she is free to develop or handle it in any manner he/she sees fit, subject to the following provisions:

  1. After all costs of obtaining the patent are deducted, when total royalties or other compensations are $750 or less, no payment to the University is required.
  2. When royalties or other compensations (after payment of patent costs) amount to more than $750 and $5000 or less, 25 percent of such royalties or other compensations above the sum of $750 and $5000 or less shall be paid to the University, and if the royalties amount to more than $5000, then 50 percent of the royalties amount above $5000 shall be paid to the University.
  3. Recognizing that such discoveries are seldom the result of single experiments, even though a single experiment may produce the actual patentable result, and at the same time recognizing the right of participants in the project, the principal investigator shall be recognized as the inventor, and the rights of the other participants shall be as previously agreed upon.
  4. These statements do not preclude agreements suggested by grant agencies, such as the Public Health Service, which give them certain patentable rights.
  5. In determining the amount of royalties, the cost of obtaining the patent shall be deducted and the balance of the royalties shall be divided in the manner herein before set out. Cost shall include preliminary expense of models and drawings, filing fees and attorney’s fees, but shall not include expenditures incident to research. (Board of Trustees Resolution, April 1958.)

Copyright Practice and Procedures

The University encourages faculty, staff, and students to create literary, scholarly, and artistic works, including textbooks and other instructional materials. In this context, copyright ownership of such works generally rests with the creator(s) (faculty, student, staff, etc.) unless they are generated within the scope of the creator’s employment, commissioned by the University, or are subject to a sponsor’s agreement which provides for a different ownership.

The copyright of literary, scholarly and artistic works, including books, articles, contributions to collective works, and other means of presentation, including instructional materials, is not considered to be outside the scope of employment unless it was not created on University time or did not involve using University resources. Copyrights in research or survey instruments (questionnaires, etc.), instructional materials (including videotapes), and in computer software created on University time are considered within the scope of employment and hence owned by the University. University personnel creating such materials are urged to contact the OSP, through the cognizant University administrators, for assistance in the copyright process and for subsequent licensing efforts

Related Issues

The commercial exploitation of inventions, in the form of products and processes for business and industry, is a highly competitive enterprise. It is therefore critical that inventors begin the disclosure process as soon as the possibility of an invention becomes evident. Delays give others an opportunity to establish a claim which may deprive an original inventor of his/her rightful recognition and compensation. Some other considerations follow.

  1. In general, it is prudent to delay the oral disclosure or publication of research details that are specific to an invention until such time as the invention has been evaluated and, as appropriate, protected. Such decisions, however, should not be allowed to adversely affect the progress of students toward their degrees. In most cases the omission of information from publications which would compromise a commercial application does not impede the free flow of fundamental knowledge. In particular, inventions in a University setting are usually practical manifestations of an underlying body of fundamental knowledge. As such, one can frequently engage in the free exchange of basic ideas without compromising the practical application.
  2. Public disclosure of a concept in the open literature (in abstracts and texts of presentations at meetings, and in theses, etc.) generally precludes obtaining patent protection in most foreign countries. In the U.S., one may obtain a patent as long as the application is filed within one year of the date of public disclosure. The impact of the waiving of foreign rights for an invention depends upon the size of U.S. and foreign markets, the relative market shares of foreign and domestic companies in the technology in question, etc.
  3. Rights to inventions arising from industrially sponsored research are usually prescribed in a research contract containing a work statement and other terms and conditions of the award. Sponsors generally receive the first option on a license to technology resulting from research which they support.
  4. Federal agencies allow contractors, including universities, to retain ownership of intellectual property arising from research which they sponsor. The government retains non-exclusive rights to such intellectual property for its own purposes. The University has a contractual obligation to inform sponsoring agencies of inventions within two months after they are disclosed to the Office of Sponsored Programs, to elect to retain title within two years, and to file a patent within one year of election.
  5. Members of research consortia are typically given nonexclusive rights to inventions conceived in whole or part with consortium funds. Such arrangements can, unfortunately, seriously compromise the commercial potential of an invention. In particular, the resulting lack of marketplace exclusively may deter companies from investing in the production facilities and marketing strategies required to commercialize an invention. Faculty concerned about this issue may wish to restrict the use of consortium funds to the support of pre-proprietary research.
  6. Consulting contracts sometimes contain provisions which limit the disposition of research results, including intellectual property, in promising research areas. They should be examined to ensure that the assignment of rights to intellectual property evolving from consulting activities does not conflict with the patent agreement signed by the University employee involved in such negotiations. In general, faculty may, within the scope of a consulting agreement, assign rights to intellectual property in their fields of expertise where organizations engaging their services have legitimate prior claims to the development(s) in question. Examples include consulting activity leading to the refinement of an existing product or process, or to a development for which background patents or prior art claims exist. In any case, faculty should bring consulting contracts to the attention of cognizant University administrators prior to executing them.

Site Visits

The OSP should be notified as soon as a site visit has been scheduled. Usually, the site visitors will notify the PI of required components of the visit (people and sites they need to see, materials that should be provided, etc.) A copy of the agenda for the visit should be sent to the OSP as soon as it is available. If help is needed, contact the OSP in a timely manner.

When University officials such as the President, Provost or other top administrators are required to meet with the site visitors, be sure to provide them with pertinent information concerning the program. If necessary, plan a pre-meeting to brief individuals so they will be knowledgeable concerning the purpose of their meeting with the site visitors and the goals of the project.

Secure a comfortable conference room that is large enough to hold the site visitors and University participants. Audiovisual equipment may be required. Arrangements should be made well in advance for special equipment needed that is not housed in the site meeting room. Amenities such as refreshments, telephone, legal pads, pencils, pens, and name tags (depending upon the number of visitors and number of Fisk participants present) should be provided, if possible.

Consideration should be exercised when scheduling the site visit. Usually visits will begin between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. If site visitors want to start earlier or later than these hours, they will tell you. Build in time for delays in case a session runs over time or participants are late (for very legitimate reasons). Also, remember it takes time to move from one building to another. Lunch brought to the site visitors permits maximum flexibility in scheduling. This should require less than one hour. The Fisk Faculty/Staff Dining Hall is adequate and relatively inexpensive and may be used as an option. Plan for adequate time to allow site visitors to catch airline flights. Take into account traffic patterns during certain hours of the day.

Prior preparation prevents failure. This brief window is your best opportunity to impress campus guests.