VIII. FACULTY WORKING CONDITIONS

Rice supports the work of its faculty in a variety of ways. In addition to the space, funds, equipment, and clerical assistance that it provides through its departments and schools, Rice maintains libraries, computing and networking facilities, and other university-wide programs to assist and protect the faculty. Rice also regulates many aspects of a faculty member's work -- not just to sustain the interests of the university but also to conform to federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

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A. The Library

Fondren Library is a modern research library that supports the university's teaching and research efforts with a broad range of collections: over 2.8 million volumes, including 129,116+ electronic books; 77,000+ current journal subscriptions; 3.3 million+ microforms; 450+ indexes and databases providing targeted access to the journal literature, including JSTOR, IEEE Explore, LexisNexis Academic, and Scopus. It is a selective depository for United States and Texas government publications and for United States patents and trademarks. Special collections include: The Woodson Research Center, home to over 39,000 rare books and 500+ manuscript collections, as well as the archives of Rice University; the Brown Fine Arts Library, which contains over 200,000 volumes related to art, architecture, classical archaeology, and music; and the Rice Digital Scholarship Archive, an open source D-Space repository for faculty members' research, electronic theses and dissertations, and digitized collections. Fondren collaborates with the Jones Graduate School of Business in providing library services to the Business Information Center, located in Janice and Robert McNair Hall. The Digital Media Center provides equipment, software, and support for using and creating media, including equipment checkout. The GIS/Data Center provides support for analyzing geographic information in a broad range of academic disciplines

Faculty Services

Faculty services offered by Fondren include active support for collections, research, and teaching; physical and electronic class reserves; inter-library borrowing and document delivery; study rooms and technology-equipped classrooms by reservation; and a limited number of carrels (available through deans to scholars with special needs). General and specialized tours are available for students, as well as classes on topics such as specific social media and technology tools, specific electronic resources, and research methodology. Additionally, there are online research guides on specific subjects. The library sponsors, through its Friends group, an annual research competition for undergraduates and graduate students; through the DMC co-sponsors an annual student video contest; and with the School of Engineering co-sponsors the faculty Virginia and Griff Lawhorn Digital Education Award.

Open Access Policy

The Faculty of Rice University is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In keeping with that commitment, and recognizing the importance of allowing faculty members to choose appropriate venues for publishing their scholarly work, the Faculty adopted the following policy in 2012:

The current Rice copyright policy governing faculty publications will be followed, with the additional provision that Rice University will make published articles written by faculty members available for open dissemination. The policy will apply to all scholarly articles written while the person is a faculty member, except for publications completed before the adoption of this policy. The Provost or Provost's designate will waive application of the policy for a particular scholarly publication upon written notification by the author, who informs Rice of the reason. Faculty members are further encouraged to make all of their publications, not just articles, available for open dissemination.

To assist Rice in distributing scholarly articles, as of the date of publication, each faculty member will submit an electronic copy of the final version of an article, at no charge, to a designated representative of the Provost's Office in one of the appropriate formats specified by the Provost's Office. The Provost's Office will make the articles available to the public in an open-access repository, the Rice Digital Scholarship Archive, which is administered by the library. More information on the archive, including where and how to submit articles, may be found at http://openaccess.rice.edu/. Upon request, an article will not be made available to the public for an agreed-upon embargo period.  

B. Information Technology

Rice University maintains a rich amalgam of information technology services and support. General information of most import to faculty can be found in the "Faculty Guide to Information Technology," a PDF document that is revised annually. You can download or read the guide at http://it.rice.edu/faculty.aspx. (Guides are also available for undergraduate and graduate students.)

Academic Computing

Information technology offerings are provided by several different teams. The Educational Technologies group supports teaching and learning at Rice, including a course-management system and technology embedded in classrooms. The Research-Computing Support group partners with the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology (K2I) to provide access to supercomputing resources, both on campus and beyond, and support for computational research needs (see entry on Research Computing). The Networking group provides both wired and wireless access to campus resources, connections to regional and national high-speed networks, as well as the Internet. The Administrative Systems group handles financial, human resources, and student records information. The Enterprise Applications and Systems, Architecture, and Infrastructure teams provide a well-rounded set of services in email, the Web, storage, and virtualization. The off-campus primary data center provides hosting opportunities for servers and clusters. Rice also makes use of "cloud computing" resources. A full slate of services can be found in IT's Service Catalog.

Several Rice policies impact the information-technology landscape. Policy 832-99 "Appropriate Use of Computer Facilities" prohibits violations of copyright, trademark, and other laws, including making unauthorized copies of licensed software. Policy 808 "Protection of Personally Identifiable Information" establishes Rice's security posture for the protection of confidential and sensitive information.  A policy on research data is currently in production to meet the requirements of federal funding agencies.

Each division within the university has a team of professional computing support staff to help with computing questions and problems. A central Help Desk (extension 4357) dispatches these to the appropriate divisional representative.

Research Computing

Rice University manages several large-scale high-performance computer clusters and a scalable storage infrastructure, and beginning in fall 2011, a visualization lab, all in support of research. Current infrastructure (75 TeraFLOPS or 50 million CPU hours per year of computing capacity across four clusters and 800 TeraBYTES of storage) was made possible by NSF and NIH awards, and supplemented by industry partnerships.

The infrastructure is available for any research project at Rice. Faculty members who need support are encouraged to contact the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology (www.k2i.rice.edu) or the Research Computing Support Group (www.rcsg.rice.edu) in IT to request to become sponsors for their respective research group. Sponsors are able to approve user-access for anyone in their group for a nominal user fee. The user fee is collected per semester to support critical software licenses and hardware support contracts.

The partnership between the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology and the Office of the Vice Provost for Information Technology works to provide stewardship for high-performance computing infrastructure, while the Research Computing Support Group in IT oversees the day-to-day operation and the Ken Kennedy Institute works with faculty on need assessment, funding development, and infrastructure expansion.

More about Information Technology:

C. Sponsored Projects

Research and study on the part of the faculty are essential elements of university work. Accordingly, members of the faculty are encouraged to seek external financial support for their research projects. When such research is carried out by faculty members under the financial sponsorship of an outside organization, such as the federal government, it is called sponsored research. That research should be clearly related to the academic programs of the departments involved and provide opportunities for graduate and/or undergraduate research training. But individual researchers are free to pursue interesting and important leads that may arise during the conduct of research, subject only to the terms of the research agreement and other restrictions of the sponsor.

Faculty members engaged in sponsored projects may receive compensation for work on a supported research project consistent with federal and state regulations and laws, as well as the terms and conditions of the funding source and university policies. These faculty members may wish to continue their research during the summer months, and to the extent that funds of sponsored projects are available, may be compensated at their approved rate for up to three months a year. The total compensation received by a faculty member in any pay period from the university and from sponsored projects funds may not, however, exceed the university-approved rate of pay for that faculty member. Faculty members on full-time academic year appointments have an approved monthly rate of one-ninth of their nine-month salary.

The vice provost for research assumes oversight of all the university's research activities and policies, including technology transfer. The Office of Sponsored Projects and Research Compliance, under the vice provost, assists faculty in identifying potential sources of funding, monitors submissions of proposals, negotiates and administers sub-contracts and non-industry sponsored agreements, and maintains a database of grants and contract proposals and awards. The Office of Technology Transfer is reponsible for negotiating contracts for sponsored projects within industry.

A sponsored research agreement, which may be either a grant or contract, is fundamentally an agreement between a sponsor and the university to engage in a project of mutual interest. The principal investigator is the resident expert who has the responsibility to carry out the proposed project. By submitting a research proposal, a researcher agrees to abide by the policies and the procedures of the university and the sponsor. Because trust in the integrity of Rice's research enterprise has accumulated over many decades and is one of the university's most valuable assets, all faculty have scholarly obligations to their colleagues and coworkers to ensure that their research is conducted honestly and that the results are reported truthfully. All principal investigators with external funding also have legal and ethical obligations to the sponsors of their research, as well as to the university in its administrative role.

Rice University expects all its members to maintain the highest standards of conduct in pursuing research and scholarly activities. Moreover, the university has regulatory responsibilities to inform those participating in sponsored research activities of the funding agencies' research misconduct policies. The university therefore has developed an extensive policy and set of procedures governing research misconduct: Policy 324 Research Misconduct and Procedures for Conducting a Research Misconduct Investigation. The university has also implemented policies defining where a potential "conflict of interest" might arise between a scholar's research and personal interests: Policy 216 Conflict of Interest and Commitment for Faculty (Including Faculty Fellows and Investigators). The provost makes an annual request for members of the university to identify potential conflicts of interest, but it is the responsibility of the individual researcher to report any conflict of interest that might arise throughout the year which have not been previously reported. More details on the definition of conflict of interest and reporting duties are to be found in the section below on "Conflict of Interest" and in Policy 216.

Because of the variety of research being conducted and the mechanism sponsors use to fund such agreements, they are governed by several university policies as detailed below:

D. Continuing Studies

The Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, with approximately 20,000 annual enrollments, provides educational opportunities in personal and professional development, online and hybrid courses, and certificate programs with offerings from the Center for College Readiness, the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership, School Literacy and Culture, the Foreign Language program, and the English as a Second Language program. The school is also home to two master’s programs: the Master of Liberal Studies and the Master of Arts in Teaching. The Glasscock School is housed in the  D. Kent and Linda C. Anderson and Robert L. and Jean T. Clarke Center, which opened in spring 2014,  allowing the school to increase its scope and continue to expand its service to Houston and beyond.

Although no member of the Rice faculty is required to teach in any of these courses, many find it rewarding to do so -- to share their knowledge with educated members of the Houston community and beyond and to gain additional income. The honorarium varies from course to course, but it is always in addition to regular Rice compensation and always includes fringe benefits. Members of the faculty may enroll in selected continuing studies courses at reduced tuition (up to 50 percent off).

E. Outside Work and Conflicts of Commitment

Consulting and other services to outside organizations, including industry and government, often constitute very desirable activities for the faculty. These services can provide a mechanism for enriching the professional experience of faculty members, thereby broadening their backgrounds for teaching and scholarly research. The university also has a responsibility to help in the transformation of results of research into products, services, and processes that will become available in the marketplace. In many instances, effecting such a transfer requires active participation of faculty members as advisors or consultants.

Such opportunities create the potential for a conflict of commitment between outside interests and responsibilities to the university. Even the appearance of a conflict can be harmful to both the faculty member and the university. 

Conflicts of commitment may arise when there are competing demands upon the time and energy of a faculty member as a result of outside activities and interests that could interfere with the faculty member's ability to meet his/her responsibilities to the university. Rice expects that faculty members' outside activities and interests will not interfere with their ability to meet their primary obligations to the university. These responsibilities differ across schools and departments, but should be based on a general understanding between the school dean or department chair and the faculty member. Experience indicates that full-time faculty members have difficulty meeting their primary obligations if they spend more than the equivalent of one day a week on outside activities. See Policy 216 "Conflict of Interest and Commitment for Faculty (Including Faculty Fellows and Investigators)."

F. Conflicts of Interest

A "conflict of interest" may occur when scholars or their family members receive financial or personal benefit from outside activities and interests that are closely related to their research activities. Examples include participation in activities sponsored by for-profit entities; negotiation with companies; provision of litigation-support services; founding of start-up companies, or consulting with companies. Alternatively, even uncompensated activities, such as volunteering on the board of a non-profit organization, may result in a conflict of interest if the organization is affected by the outcomes of a scholar's work. These situations may compromise, or may have the appearance of compromising, a scholar's judgment while conducting research. No area of scholarship is exempt from real or potential conflicts of interest.

The principal means for managing potential conflicts of interest involves prior disclosure and a dialog between a faculty member and her/his dean. The provost will make an annual request for such disclosures to all scholars. But at the same time, individual faculty members have the responsibility of informing their dean within 30 days if circumstances change, new research proposals are submitted, or income or interests that could constitute a conflict of interest are discovered. More information on defining and reporting potential conflicts of commitment may be found in Policy 216 and its related procedures document: Policy 216 "Conflict of Interest and Commitment for Faculty (Including Faculty Fellows and Investigator)" and Procedures for Policy 216. 

Specific requirements exist concerning potential or real conflicts of interest for faculty members submitting proposals to certain federal agencies. These faculty members must file a disclosure statement with their dean. 

Special guidelines apply to faculty members who are involved in purchasing supplies, services, and equipment for the university. Faculty members with the authority to commit university funds must disclose whether any potential conflict of interest exists when they request signature authority for the commitment of funds. This category of conflicts of interest is covered by Policy 838 "Conflict of Interest."

Only in special cases may university equipment or facilities be used for services to an outside organization, including those controlled by faculty members, and then only with the explicit written approval of the department chair and dean or applicable vice president.

G. Intellectual Property

Rice University encourages the publication and display of original works and the uninhibited dissemination of new knowledge. Both academic freedom and quality education are served by these activities. As an institution where the faculty is expanding the frontiers of knowledge, Rice accepts its obligation to serve the public interest by ensuring that the best and most promising of the new discoveries, ideas, art, papers, books, computer software, and other works are made available for public use. Rice also recognizes that it must assist its faculty in properly disclosing their scholarly work, in complying with applicable laws and formal agreements, and in gaining the protection available under United States laws governing patents, copyrights, and trademarks.

It is important to understand that applying for patents, copyrights, and trademarks, which are classes of intellectual property, is a critically important step in achieving the university's objective of making research discoveries available for public use. Intellectual properties convey certain rights to their owners which can provide significant competitive advantage; this important aspect helps to motivate investment in the risky process of transforming a university developed research discovery into a bona fide product. Companies and Rice enter into contractual agreements, called licenses, whereby Rice conveys the right to use an invention in exchange for the company's development of the technology into a product(s), and (usually) fees and/or royalties.

Rice policy requires that all discoveries or creations (including software) made during the conduct of university research be disclosed to the university. If, upon evaluation, the university decides to seek intellectual property protection, the policy requires the inventor(s) or developer(s) to sign a legal document assigning ownership rights to Rice. Rice will then pursue, at its expense, any opportunities that may flow from the disclosed technology and will share any earnings with the inventor(s) or developer(s).

For more information on intellectual property issues, see Policy 333 "Patent and Software Policies" and Policy 334 "Copyright Policy."

1. Patents

Patent laws protect useful, new, and non-obvious inventions (rather than the underlying ideas or concepts) in specified categories, including machines, devices, processes, methods, techniques, software, materials, compositions, substances, mixtures, and chemical compounds. A patent owner has the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention for a period of twenty years after the filing date of the patent.

When a potentially patentable invention is discovered or developed at the university, a confidential invention disclosure report should be submitted to the Office of Technology Transfer. Prompt reporting can be critical to obtaining patent protection for the invention in the U.S. and foreign countries. U.S. patent rights will be lost if the patent application is not filed within one year of a "trigger event," which includes public disclosure (including regular or web based publication, oral presentation, and proposals to government agencies), public use, commercial use, offer for sale, or sale of the invention. Most industrialized foreign countries do not have this one year grace period. In addition, if the invention was made with federal funding, it must be reported to the government by the Office of Technology Transfer accurately and on a timely basis. Therefore, it is important to identify the sources of any grant funding that supported the research or any research personnel (including students) when preparing the invention disclosure. It is also important to update that information when formally filing each patent for the invention disclosure.

Rice may elect to pursue patent protection and licensing of a disclosed invention, in which case any royalty income will be shared among the inventor, the inventor's department, and the university in percentages detailed in the policy. If the university declines to pursue patent protection for an invention, it will offer to return the intellectual property rights to the inventor(s), subject to the rights of any third party sponsor of the research which led to the invention. Generally when patentable inventions are discovered or developed in the course of research supported in whole or in part by federal funds, the government shall have a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free license to practice the subject invention. If rights are returned to the inventors and they elect to develop the technology for their own purposes, the university's name and trademarks may not be used for any promotional or commercial purposes without the prior written consent of the president.

2. Copyrights

Copyright laws protect forms of expression (rather than the underlying ideas, concepts, facts or information) for originally authored works in certain specified categories, including literary works (includes certain software); musical works (includes accompanying words); dramatic works (includes accompanying music); pantomimes and choreographic works; pictorial, graphic and sculptural works; motion pictures and other audiovisual works; sound recordings; and architectural works. A copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce the work, prepare derivative works, distribute copies of the work, publicly display the work, and publicly perform the work.

From time to time, faculty members may want to use the copyrighted works of others to supplement their research and teaching and to otherwise facilitate the university's mission of developing and transmitting knowledge. Under copyright law, the doctrine of "fair use" may allow such use (including making and distributing copies) without obtaining the permission of the copyright owner. "Fair use" is an equitable doctrine which limits a copyright owner's exclusive rights and requires a case-by-case analysis of the following four factors:

  • purpose or character of the use (noncommercial uses such as teaching, research, scholarship, comment, and criticism are better than commercial uses);
  • nature of the work (published works are easier to use than unpublished works);
  • amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the work as a whole; and
  • effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the work.

A copyright is created automatically when the work is first "fixed in a tangible medium of expression." Although neither a federal registration nor a copyright notice is required, a registration is necessary to file a suit for infringement in federal court, and a notice helps to prove both the owner's and the infringer's intent.

At the university, the author of a copyrightable work retains ownership of the copyright, subject to the rights of any third-party sponsor except for software works (see Policy 333 "Patent and Software Policies") and for specific works that a faculty member has agreed to produce for the university (see Policy 334 "Copyright Policy").  Joint authors are persons who contribute to the work with the intention that their contributions be merged into an interdependent whole. Independent contractors retain copyright ownership for their works absent a proper written "work for hire" agreement and/or copyright assignment. Generally, when copyrightable works are developed in the course of research supported in whole or in part by federal funds, the government (including others acting for or on its behalf) shall have nonexclusive, worldwide, royalty-free license to use, reproduce, prepare derivative works of, distribute copies of, publicly display, and publicly perform, the work. Where appropriate, the university should be identified to reflect the institutional affiliation or support of the work; however, the university's name and trademarks may not be used for any promotional or commercial purposes without the prior written approval of the president.

3.  Data Access and Management

In the process of their research, Rice University faculty, research staff, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate students, inevitably make a record of their methods, approaches and findings, known broadly as research data. The university and the researchers have certain rights and responsibilities pertaining to the management of that data.

The research investigators have the right to use data for future research and to disseminate data to the broader community. This is subject to compliance with laws and regulations, as well as any contractual obligations, regarding the conduct of research.  In addition, the research investigators must assist the university in fulfilling obligations related to the appropriate use of human and animal subjects, the safe use of hazardous materials, the protection of the university’s intellectual property rights, and compliance with the requirements of research sponsors and governmental agencies.   Research data must also be protected to ensure that the university can effectively oversee and investigate any conflict of interest and research misconduct issues.

The details of this policy and an outline of procedures that a principal investigator must follow are found in Policy 308, Research Data Management.

4. The University's Name and Trademarks

The name of the university should be used in a faculty member's title to show institutional affiliation in connection with university-related work made public. The name of the university may not, however, be used for promotional purposes of a commercial nature without the written approval of the president.

H. Nepotism

Rice University seeks to foster an environment where people are treated with respect and trust. Employment of family members may be problematic because such situations can create a conflict of interest, an appearance of favoritism, and an increased potential for a hostile work environment. Because of these concerns, the university is sensitive to circumstances in which relatives of employees might be hired, transferred, or promoted to positions where one relative might have influence over any of the following: a relative's employment, performance review, salary administration, promotion, or other employment-related decisions.

If a relationship develops during the course of employment that would violate this policy, the university will work with the individuals involved to resolve the situation. In all cases, the needs of the university determine the resolution. For more details, see Policy 419-96 "Nepotism."

I. Drug-Free University

The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires that employers take appropriate measures to combat illegal drugs in the workplace as a condition for receiving federal funds. To comply with the act, the university has in place and administers in good faith a policy prohibiting the unlawful manufacture, possession, use, or distribution of illegal drugs and alcohol on the property of the university, or as part of any university activities, except in the course of authorized teaching and research. Confidential counseling, treatment, and rehabilitation programs are available to faculty members, who may contact the Rice University Employee Assistance Program  LifeWorks) or the Rice University Health Education Office. For more details, see Policy 323-96 "Drug-Free University."

J. Disability Accommodations

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 require that Rice provide accommodations for individuals whose disabilities impact them in their pursuits at the university.  Rice, accordingly, provides reasonable accommodations such as adaptive technology and equipment, including assistive listening units and Braille embossers, audio texts for the blind, and other accommodations and assistance based on documented needs.  Access to buildings at Rice University is, in general, excellent; specialized modifications are made in offices and classrooms as needed.  Faculty members who have disabilities or who have students in their classes with disabilities should work with the chairs of their departments, the provost, and the director of Disability Support Services to take full advantage of the facilities and services that are available for people with disabilities.  Faculty are advised to include ADA statements on their syllabi and to direct students with disabilities to Disability Support Services  (http://www.dss.rice.edu) ; that office provides examples of ADA statements on their "faculty information" link, under the heading "Informing Students" (http://dss.rice.edu/Content.aspx?id=38#InformingStudents).   Faculty should expect to receive an Accommodation Letter from Disability Support Services indicating the accommodations that a student with a disability will need.

K. Campus Security and Workplace Safety

Rice attempts to do all that is reasonable to provide a safe and healthful environment for work and study. To protect individuals and property and to regulate parking and the flow of traffic through the campus, Rice currently maintains a police department of 26 licensed officers supported by 15 guards, attendants, dispatchers, and clerks. The uniformed officers, who have been specially screened for service at Rice by committees that include faculty and students, enforce all applicable federal, state, and local laws, as well as university regulations. Members of the faculty should cooperate fully with the Rice police and report crimes, suspicions of crimes, and other incidents which could constitute an emergency by using the blue-light emergency telephones or by dialing 713-348-6000 (6000 from any campus phone).

Rice's Environmental Health and Safety Department provides support to the Rice community in the areas of chemical and biological safety, fire safety, office and laboratory safety. The department also works with local, state and federal agencies to ensure compliance with government codes and policies. Rice University's general safety policy is explained in Policy 805 "Environmental Health and Occupational Safety Program."

All faculty members have a role to play in ensuring safety at the workplace. Those responsible for laboratories have additional responsibilities, as outlined in Policy 313 "Laboratory Safety Policy", but also by government laws and regulations. "Laboratory" in this sense is a well-defined space where research or scholarly activities take place using materials or equipment that can pose a safety hazard (e.g. hazardous chemicals; lasers; compressed gases; liquid cryogens; high powered electronic or mechanical tools). In other words, laboratories might well be found in spaces across the disciplines. The principal investigator (PI) plays the primary role in ensuring that proper training and supervision takes place in the laboratory; department chairs, deans, and other faculty members also have important roles to play in this process. Failure to maintain a safe working environment can result in sanctions against the PI, and more importantly, it can result in severe endangerment to members of the campus community.

More information may be found at these links:
Policy 301 "Policy for the Submission and Administration of Sponsored Projects"
Policy 314 "Care and Humane Treatment of Animals Used in Research, Testing, and Education"
Policy 326 "Human Health and Safety in the Performance of Research" 
Policy 326-98 "Protection of Human Subjects Participating in Research or Educational Activities"