Announcement of Ad Hoc Faculty Committees

September 12, 2008

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

I am writing to announce the establishment of two ad hoc faculty committees, which I have established together with Claude Canizares—one focused on managing potential conflicts of interest and the other on enhancing technology transfer.

MIT has long-standing policies and procedures designed to preserve the integrity of its research enterprise and foster technology transfer.  These policies are well developed and reflect a deep commitment to preserving the Institute’s fundamental academic values and principles.  However, in recent years the complexity of the research enterprise has increased, the scope and nature of intellectual property have undergone profound changes, and increasing numbers of faculty, graduate students, and even undergraduates are involved in commercial activities.  Therefore, it is both timely and appropriate for MIT to undertake a comprehensive review of its principles, policies, and procedures related to potential conflicts of interest and to technology transfer. 

Managing Potential Conflicts of Interest in Research
This committee will review the kinds of individual and institutional relationships that could give rise to the perception or reality of conflicts of interest; assess regulations, legal requirements, and best practices at other major institutions; and examine written and practiced policies and procedures related to conflicts of interest.  They will also recommend any changes to strengthen our policies and procedures; review mechanisms for monitoring and reporting conflicts of interest; examine relevant procedures within current research groups; and recommend programs for ongoing education and information exchange regarding research integrity and conflict of interest.  Faculty appointed to this committee are Institute Professor Sheila E. Widnall (chair), and Professors Steven D. Eppinger, Gregory C. Fu, Rudolf Jaenisch, Rae Langton, Tomas Lozano-Perez, Deb K. Roy, and Leona D. Samson.

MIT Technology Transfer in the 21st Century
This committee will explore ways MIT’s policies, procedures, and practices can enhance and accelerate technology transfer to contribute to the economy and the welfare of the nation and the world; review industrial partnerships and the principles on which they rest; learn from best practices at peer institutions; and recommend appropriate changes to MIT’s policies and procedures to enable the formation of beneficial, strategic partnerships with industry while preserving MIT’s fundamental values and principles. Faculty appointed to this committee are Professor Charles L. Cooney (chair), and Professors Angela M. Belcher, Yet-Ming Chiang, David K. Gifford, Jerry A. Hausman, Frank Thomson Leighton, Susan Lindquist, Ram Sasisekharan, Andrew M. Scott, and Duncan Simester.

The two committees will coordinate fully with each other, given the strong connection between their mandates, and I expect both will consult widely in the MIT community and beyond. Each Committee will produce a report laying out its recommendations within a year. Full information on the charges of the committees can be found at


I thank Professors Widnall and Cooney, as well as all the committee members, for their willingness to undertake this important Institute assignment.


L. Rafael Reif