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Staff Portal

Contract review

What is a research contract?

A research agreement or contract is a voluntary, deliberate and legally binding document between two or more competent parties. The purpose of a contract is to set out the roles and responsibilities of the parties involved, i.e. the University, the researchers, students and the funding body. It usually specifies the obligations, deliverables and milestones to be met and dictates how the contracting parties will interact with each other over the course of a research project.

As a guide, the contract will:

  • define the work to be undertaken
  • define the financial contributions and payment terms
  • define the share of technical, commercial and economic risks of each party
  • set out publication rights of researchers
  • establish who will own the results of the work and who has the right to use them
  • set out agreed liability and indemnities
  • set out confidentiality and publicity terms

Types of contract

You will see contracts referred by different names, including, but not limited to:

  • deed
  • agreement
  • letter of offer
  • terms and conditions
  • purchase order
  • subcontract
  • project agreement
  • funding agreement
  • research services agreement / collaborative research agreement / collaboration agreement
  • consultancy agreement
  • memorandum of understanding
  • variation
  • intellectual property agreement / licence
  • non-disclosure / confidentiality agreement

The purpose of these research contracts is to ensure that the activity is governed in accordance with the University’s commitment to the pursuit of knowledge, that the academic consequences are understood, and that the risks of undertaking the activity are identified and mitigated as effectively as possible.

The research contract also ensures that there is an auditable trail that confirms the purpose of the income, which is a requirement under the University’s statutory reporting obligations. Thus, all contracts require a review by RoC’s Commercial Contract Officers (CCOs).

When and how should I send a contract for review?

Normally there are two scenarios: you as the Chief/Principal Investigator might have a proposed contract from a funder, or you have requested a new contract from our contract team. In both cases, please contact the Research Support Officers (RSO) from your faculty.

Requesting a new contract or requesting review of a funder’s contract

The RSO will discuss with you the specific project related details, such as:

  • the identity of the funder and funder’s financial details
  • ownership of, or rights to use, background intellectual property (IP)
  • ownership of project IP to be developed (remember: IP includes copyright in reports!)
  • commercial potential
  • confidentiality
  • student involvement
  • subcontractor involvement
  • project output
  • stages of work with deliverables
  • proposed publications
  • transfer of materials required to conduct the project (if applicable)

You should provide all documents referenced in the contract, including proposal/scope of work and appendixes.

What should I do if more than one contract is associated with a single project?

It’s your responsibility as the Principal Investigator to provide all the relevant documentation to the RSO to organise a contract review. If there is more than one contract associated with a single project, there may be an overarching funding agreement and separate agreements with collaborators and/or subcontractors.

It’s important that you provide a complete picture of the project and copies of any related agreements as this may affect the terms of your project. The funding agreement may impose conditions on the involvement of students and subcontractors, and there may be limitations on use of funds, intellectual property, data and any other project information that may be owned by another party (which may require written approval before it can be used).

Who will review the contracts and advise me on the terms, conditions and obligations?

When you conduct research in your capacity as a Curtin employee, this research is considered by Curtin to be a university project. As such, Curtin (not you as the Chief/Principal Investigator) is considered to be the contracting party. This means all contracts must be reviewed and accepted by Curtin.

It’s the responsibility of the CCOs to review/develop the contractual conditions that govern research activity based on the specific requirements of, and risks pertaining to, your project. The CCOs will advise on the terms, conditions and obligations of your contract so that you can manage risks and meet your obligations.

How long will the contract review process take?

The complexity of the contract will determine the turnaround time. If Curtin standard templates are used the time will be defined and rapid, so the draft/review can usually be completed within a week, if complete details are provided to the CCOs.

When non-standard or third-party agreements are reviewed, several revisions and iterations may be required before a final agreement is reached between all parties, and may take more than three weeks to finalise. It is recommended that contract review / drafting requests be submitted as early as possible to avoid delays.


Setting up a cost centre