Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Externally Funded Research Policy and Application Procedures

Category Research
Type Policy
Approved by Council, 11 May 2004
Date Policy Took Effect 11 May 2004
Last Approved Revision
Sponsor Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise)
Responsible Officer Director of Research
Review Date 1 May 2012


The purpose of this document is to set out the policy and procedures relating to

  • Contract research and commercial initiatives
  • The costing of externally-funded research
  • Proposals and Research Grant Applications for External Funds
  • External contracts

Organisational Scope

These policies and procedures apply to all staff and students engaged in externally funded research.


Contract research - research and/or development work that is conducted with the support of a sponsor or purchaser who is external to the University.

Policy Content

1 Definition of Research

Research as defined by the Tertiary Education Commission (Performance-Based Research Fund - A Guide for 2003, 25 July 2003) is

“original investigation undertaken in order to gain knowledge and understanding.

It typically involves enquiry of an experimental or critical nature driven by hypotheses or intellectual positions capable of rigorous assessment.

It is an independent, creative, cumulative and often long-term activity conducted by people with specialist knowledge about the theories, methods and information concerning their field of enquiry. (Note: The term 'independent' here should not be construed so as to exclude collaborative work.) Its findings must be open to scrutiny and formal evaluation by others in the field, and this may be achieved through publication or public presentation.

In some fields, the results of the investigation may be embodied in the form of an artistic work, design or performance.

Research includes contribution to the intellectual infrastructure of subjects and disciplines (e.g. dictionaries and scholarly editions). It also includes the experimental development of design or construction solutions, as well as investigation that leads to new or substantially improved materials, devices, products or processes.”

2 Contract Research, Commercial Initiatives and Costing of Research

(a) Contract Research

(i) Contract research is defined as research and/or development work that is conducted with the support of a sponsor or purchaser who is external to the University. It includes both research purchased by not-for-profit organisations such as the Foundation for Research, Science & Technology (FRST), the Royal Society of New Zealand, the Health Research Council (HRC) and charitable bodies and commercially sponsored research. Contract research is normally associated with a well-defined objective and will often require outputs such as products, reports or publications.

(ii) All contract research must be fully costed in order to establish the true cost of undertaking the research. For commercial research, this cost must be met in full by the sponsoring/purchasing agent. For non-commercial research, the cost of research must still be fully met but may be met by a combination of University and sponsoring/purchasing agent contributions. Contract research, by definition, is conducted on a contractual basis between the University and the purchasing/sponsoring agent. It may involve confidentiality and restrictions upon publication, particularly if it is commercial research.

(iii) Appropriate contract research and related professional activities are desirable within the University to foster the University's interaction with the wider community and for the professional development of staff. The University retains the right to refuse contract research that is incompatible with its Charter, mission and/or strategic objectives. Specifically, the University will not accept, directly or indirectly, research funding from the tobacco industry.

(iv) Contracts for research involving the University or its facilities may only be authorised by one of the following: the University Council, the Vice-Chancellor, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) or a person with authority officially delegated by one of the above.

(v) All research contracts involving the University of Otago are between the sponsoring/purchasing agent and the University, not between the sponsoring/purchasing agent and the individual investigator involved in the research. This also applies to any less formal agreement of service.

(b) Commercial Initiatives

(i) In the case of research that is commercial or professional in nature, staff members must consult with the staff of Research & Enterprise Office prior to negotiation of any contractual arrangements. This Office has been established to assist in marketing the University's expertise and facilities for applied research and represents an important resource for staff wishing to establish commercial research contracts. It is also the agency through which the University initially protects and develops its intellectual property.

(ii) While supporting involvement in research that is commercial or professional in nature, the University will be guided by certain objectives in deciding whether the research is acceptable.

These are:

  • to ensure that the initiatives complement teaching and are consistent with the University's Charter, mission and strategic direction
  • to ensure that the initiatives will strengthen teaching, learning, and research within the University
  • to ensure that staff and students are protected from exploitation
  • to maintain a list of such activities, open to scrutiny, undertaken by the University
  • to ensure that the research meets appropriate ethical standards
  • to ensure that government-funded programmes have priority over these activities and that commercial activities do not divert staff from their teaching, research and administrative commitments

(c) Costing of Research

(i) The University applies the principle of full cost recovery for externally-funded research and the consequent elimination of any cross subsidisation of externally-funded research from other funding sources.

(ii) An explanation of full cost recovery principles and their application at the University of Otago is available on the Research & Enterprise website .

(iii) Nevertheless, the University recognises the need for flexibility in the application of full cost recovery principles to externally-funded research to match the needs and circumstances of the various sponsors and types of research. The University maintains a register of University-recognized organisations which are exempt from meeting the full cost of research. This Schedule is kept updated and maintained by the Research & Enterprise Office.

1. Flexibility in Pricing

The distinction between the full cost of the research undertaken and the money requested from the sponsor or purchaser is a concept that needs to be clearly understood by all staff engaged in contract research, whether commercial or non-commercial. The full cost of research must be identified in all contracts even where there are situations where it is inappropriate for the University to recover the full cost of the research in setting its price. In any proposal to waive or lower the full cost, the difference between the full cost and recovered income becomes a direct fiscal charge on the Department or School, and requires formal recommendation by the Head of Department/Cost Centre Manager, the Dean of School or Pro-Vice-Chancellor (PVC - see below), and approval by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research).

The undertaking of a research project at less than full cost may only occur after a careful consideration of the factors involved. It is expected to occur infrequently except where a not-for-profit purchaser has rules that preclude or limit purchasing of research at full cost. Examples of cases that may merit reduction in full cost are projects where the sponsor purchases specialised equipment that will remain the property of the University at the conclusion of the project, the development of a Research Theme in the University, or projects which are pilot investigations for large fully-funded projects.

3 Procedures for Proposals and Research Grant Applications for External Funds

(a) To submit an application, researchers must have in place a formal relationship with the University of Otago. Aside from an employment contract, eligible relationships include honorary and joint clinical appointments.

(b) Application forms and guidelines from many funding bodies are available from the Research & Enterprise Office, either in hard copy or in electronic form on the website . If not immediately available, the Research & Enterprise Office will try to obtain the appropriate forms. Up-to-date information about closing dates and other relevant information is provided weekly on both the Research page of the University's web site and circulated by email (via listproc) to all interested research staff at the University.

(c) All applications and formal proposals must be submitted to the Research & Enterprise Office (or the local research office at the University of Otago, Christchurch and the University of Otago, Wellington). They must be submitted by the advertised internal deadline (normally at least five working days before the due date for the application). The University will not guarantee that the application will be processed in time to meet the external deadline unless the internal deadline is met.

(d) All applications and formal proposals must be accompanied by a University of Otago Costing and Consents Worksheet. As well as costing information, this worksheet includes the information required in terms of statutory and regulatory consents and approvals. Once complete, prior to sign off, the Costing and Consents Worksheet is checked by the Research & Enterprise Office and changes negotiated with the applicant. The Costing and Consents Worksheet must be submitted by the applicant to the Head of Department and the PVC.

(e) Where the Worksheet shows a difference between the calculated full cost of the research and the sum requested, a separate signature is required from the Head of Department/Cost Centre Manager to acknowledge this fact, and from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) to approve the failure to recover full costs. This applies in all cases, including acceptance of funding from pre-approved organisations exempt from full cost recovery. If the failure to recover full cost is not as a result of the organisation being one of the pre-approved list, a justification will be required.

(f) The Costing and Consents Worksheet is available from the Research & Enterprise Office website on . This is an internal document only and is not to be forwarded to the funding body. The information is useful in completing financial detail required for the application.

(g) No applications to a research purchaser will be processed by the Research & Enterprise Office without this Worksheet being completed. This is because a research proposal binds the University to fair and accurate representations of its research capacity and of the ability of its employees to undertake lawful research investigations. The University discharges that duty by asking employees to make a declaration in the form of this Costing and Consents Worksheet.

(h) The Research & Enterprise Office checks applications and worksheets on their receipt. Amendments are negotiated with the applicants and then the necessary approval is acquired from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) or, where appropriate, their delegated nominees (including the Director, Research & Enterprise and the Associate Deans for Research at the University of Otago, Christchurch and the University of Otago, Wellington). The Research & Enterprise Office then copies the applications or proposals and forwards them to the funding body by the application deadline.

4 Procedures for External Contracts

(a) The Research & Enterprise Office acts as the primary intermediary for communications with external contractors. A contract is normally forwarded to the University by the research purchaser when a decision has been made by a funding body to purchase research. Sometimes the University is asked to prepare the draft contract. After the contract has been read and reviewed by the Research & Enterprise Office and the Principal Investigator(s) and any modifications made, a final version of the contract is signed by a representative of the purchasing body and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), or an authorised delegate, on behalf of the University. A standard University of Otago contract form is available from the Research & Enterprise Office although, normally, the funding body will prefer to use its own form. There is also a form to be used when the University is the contractor (i.e. engages a subcontractor to deliver on a research project (e.g. FRST contracts)).

(b) Contracts should contain as a minimum requirement:

  • full contact details for all parties to the contract
  • statements on the ownership of intellectual property and publication rights
  • statement relating to thesis submission (especially if a student is involved)
  • a statement of confidentiality
  • a statement of governing law
  • a statement allowing either party to withdraw from the contract under appropriate circumstances
  • a statement on liability
  • the date for the submission of the final report

(c) Schedules should contain:

  • instructions as to the reporting procedure to the funding body during the course of the contract
  • the name(s) of the principal investigator(s) or director of the project as well as the name(s), if available, of others engaged in the research and the Department to which each belongs
  • details of the budget (including whether the funding is to be exclusive or inclusive of GST)
  • method of payment and payment schedule (including invoice dates, if appropriate, and any requirements for payment e.g. submission of report(s))

5 Additional Comment

(a) The University of Otago (not individual staff) is the binding signatory on all research and commercial contracts and, as such, is required to ensure that any report(s) or product(s) are delivered in accordance with the contract. A failure by employees to abide by contract conditions may place the University in breach of its contractual obligations.

(b) The University requires students to sight and/or sign the contractual agreement if they are involved in the work.

(c) By its nature, ongoing research may require an alteration to protocols, procedures, timelines, milestones, objectives, etc. contained in the original research contract. Any changes may require the University to notify the research purchaser by letter and to enter into a revision of the research contract. All renegotiations of contracts must be handled by the Research & Enterprise Office.