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University of Wisconsin–Madison

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UW–Madison Policy on Open Research & Free Interchange of Information

UW–Madison Policy on Open Research & Free Interchange of Information

UW–Madison Policy on Open Research & Free Interchange of Information


The University of Wisconsin–Madison has a long and proud history of affirming academic freedom. The memorial of the Class of 1910, a bronze plaque on the front of Bascom Hall, eloquently reminds students, faculty, staff, and visitors of the University’s commitment to this ideal:

What may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great State University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.

From a report to the Board of Regents, September 18, 1894:

To sustain and strengthen preeminence in research and higher education, the University must continue to foster and protect an environment of openness and academic freedom. Avenues of inquiry should be unlimited, participation in research and the academic community unrestricted, and dissemination of knowledge unfettered.


As policy, the University will not undertake research with restrictions on openness or academic freedom on its campus. Examples of unacceptable restrictions include prohibition on publication or other forms of dissemination, required external approval of research results before publication, or exclusion of members of the University community from participation in research. In particular, foreign faculty, students, or scholars should not be singled out for restriction in access to the University's educational and research activities. Most research can be conducted in accord with this policy and the ideals of freedom of inquiry and open exchange of knowledge.


The University recognizes that, in some instances, the best interests of society will mitigate against broad participation in research and open exchange of information. In cases of research to be conducted on campus or as part of assigned duties, the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education may, in accordance with Wisconsin law, grant exceptions to this policy and accept research contracts involving government security classifications or other similar restrictions on participation in research or access to or dissemination of research results, if all of the following are satisfied: 1) the research must further national security interests; 2) the educational interests of all participating students must be adequately protected; 3) appropriate facilities, infrastructure, and administrative resources must be available for the research, either on campus or at an off-campus site; and 4) the sponsors of the research must cover all additional costs associated with the security requirements of the research. If the requirements are not met, the University will decline or discontinue the research. Work conducted off campus and as an outside activity must be reported (per UWS 8) and reviewed for potential conflicts of commitment by the relevant Dean and Department to ensure that the activity does not interfere with assigned and/or required duties and responsibilities.

Classified Research at Off-Campus Sites

Currently, the University lacks the appropriate secure facilities that meet U.S. government security requirements in which to conduct classified research and the cleared personnel to administer such research. Unless such infrastructure becomes established on campus, classified work must be conducted at an off-campus site, such as the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) in UW Research Park. The off-campus site will be required to administer contracting and other business-related issues, and University participation will be supported through a subcontract such as is done with current subcontracts received from third party prime contractors or Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) assignments to federal agencies.

Application to Faculty and Staff Research

Classified activities may pose challenges for the University processes for granting promotion and tenure for faculty if those activities prevent the publication of the faculty's research activities. Probationary faculty should consult their mentor committee to determine how classified research will be assessed for scholarly merit. Any principal investigator engaged in classified research must provide a notification letter to academic staff that participation in classified research may result in the inability to publish work in the open literature. Substantial contributions to classified activities by academic staff will factor into staff promotion through recommendations by the principal investigator.

Application to Student Research

Theses or dissertations, whether undertaken by graduate or undergraduate students, are an integral part of the research program of the University and fall under this policy. No student may undertake a thesis project that, at its inception or at any point during its conduct, requires restrictions on openness or academic freedom, unless the Provost grants an exception to this policy. In such cases, the student's mentor committee, Department/Program, and the Dean of the Graduate School (for graduate students) or Provost (for other students) must 1) confirm that the student understands the negative consequences that publication restrictions could have on the appearance of productivity; and 2) determine in advance the criteria by which the student will satisfy requirements for the degree if the work is not available to the University community for assessment of its scholarly merit.


Approved by the Research Policy Advisory Council, December 15, 2005
Vice Chancellor for Research: Accepted Research Policy Advisory Council recommendation on December 15, 2005
Modified by the Research Policy Advisory Council, January 28, 2015
Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education: Accepted Research Policy Advisory Council recommendation on February 14, 2015

Keywords: policy open research free interchange of information