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Participation Agreements and Visitor Participation Agreements

Policy Contacts

Ara Tahmassian
Chief Research Compliance Officer, Harvard University

What is Essential:

Individuals who perform research at Harvard and/or who may create intellectual property through the use of Harvard resources are subject to certain University policies and, in some cases, to the terms of agreements between Harvard and third parties (e.g., other institutions, organizations or companies).  Such policies cover, for example, the ethical conduct of research, publication of research results, retention of research records and handling of intellectual property.  Among these policies is the University’s “Statement of Policy in Regard to Intellectual Property” (or “IP Policy”), which governs patentable inventions, copyrightable works and tangible materials made through the use of funds, facilities or other resources provided by or through Harvard. Among other things, the policy defines which IP will be owned by Harvard and sets out the rights and obligations of Harvard researchers with respect to that IP (including, e.g., as regards the reporting of inventions, release of inventions by Harvard to inventors and the sharing of revenues derived from commercialization of Harvard-owned IP).  Signed Participation Agreements and Visitor Participation Agreements are required to confirm compliance with the Univeristy’s IP policy and other research-related policies.


How to Comply:

The Office of Technology Development (OTD) is responsible for implementing the IP Policy with respect to inventions, software and other materials that arise from Harvard research activities.  The full IP Policy can be found on OTD’s website.

To access the Harvard University Participation Agreement for signature, please follow this link:

Visitor Participation Agreements

Harvard’s research policies cover all individuals who perform work under the University’s auspices, including visitors.  Thus, in addition to the Participation Agreement, there are several forms of Visitor Participation Agreements.  For information on who should sign which form, see the PA and VPA Guidance. Once signed, the Visitor PA should be scanned and linked to the visitor’s personnel record in GMAS.  If no such record exists (i.e., if the visitor will not receive an appointment with a Harvard ID number and card), you may wish to create one for the limited purpose of archiving the Visitor PA, so that it can be retrieved when needed.

Because visitors may be differently situated with respect to pre-existing obligations that may relate to their research, alternative forms of the Visitor PA, as described and made available for download below, have been designed to accommodate their various needs, depending on the type of organization, if any, from which they are visiting Harvard.

Click on the Visitor type that best describes your visitor for the appropriate form:


From For-Profit Organizations (U.S. and foreign) 

  • For visitors from companies or other for-profit organizations anywhere in the world, you may view and download the “HARVARD UNIVERSITY VISITOR PARTICIPATION AGREEMENT for visitors from for-profit organizations (U.S. and foreign) by clicking here. 

From U.S. Non-Profit Institutions:

  • For visitors from U.S. non-profit and governmental institutions, except for medical centers affiliated with Harvard Medical School,* you may view and download the “HARVARD UNIVERSITY VISITOR PARTICIPATION AGREEMENT for visitors from U.S. non-profit institutions OTHER THAN the Harvard-affiliated medical centers by clicking here.

From Foreign Non-Profit Institutions/Unaffiliated Individuals:

  • For visitors from foreign non-profit institutions OR for visitors who are not affiliated with any university, research institution, hospital, company or other organization, i.e., who are self-employed or unemployed, you may view and download the “HARVARD UNIVERSITY VISITOR PARTICIPATION AGREEMENT for visitors from foreign non-profit institutions and for unaffiliated individuals by clicking here.

From Harvard-Affiliated Medical Centers:

  • For visitors from one of the medical centers affiliated with Harvard Medical School, you may view and download the “HARVARD UNIVERSITY VISITOR PARTICIPATION AGREEMENT for visitors from Harvard-Affiliated Medical Centers” by clicking here.

From U.S. Government Agencies/Institutions:

  • For visitors employed by the U.S. Government, you may view and download the “HARVARD UNIVERSITY VISITOR PARTICIPATION AGREEMENT for Visitors employed by the U.S. Government” by clicking here.


PA and VPA Guidance

Intellectual Property Policy

The University and its Schools also have adopted other policies concerning IP and the development and licensing of technology. These policies can be found on OTD’s website and on the Provost’s Office website.

Acknowledgement of Risk and Release of Claims 

In addition to the VPA, non-Harvard personnel who visit Harvard laboratories where certain hazards (e.g. chemical, radioactive, biological agents or heavy machinery) may be present may also be required by the lab to complete the “Acknowledgement of Risk and Release of Claims” form.  Not all visitors who sign a VPA are required to complete this form.  Only visitors to labs where certain hazards are present who are NOT:

Completion of the form confirms that the visitor understands the nature of the risks and indicates that they have health insurance of their own and will release Harvard from any claims in the event they are injured as a result of working in Harvard laboratories.

Helpful Resources

Acknowledgement of Risk and Release of Claims

PA and VPA Guidance

Intellectual Property Policy

The Harvard Trademark Program oversees the worldwide registration and protection of Harvard’s trademarks and administers the University’s Use-of-Name policies, which govern how the Harvard name (including the names of the University’s schools and units) may be used by members of the Harvard community. The policies (including the University’s primary use-of-name policy: The Use of Harvard Names and Insignias) may be found at the Harvard Trademark Program policy page.

A useful resource in the course of research is “Copyright and Fair Use: A Guide for the Harvard Community (pdf),” which can be found on the Copyright Resources section of the Office of General Counsel website.

In addition, a number of Harvard Faculties and Schools have adopted open-access policies for scholarly articles authored by Harvard faculty members.  The open-access policies grant Harvard a nonexclusive license to use and distribute a faculty member’s articles, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit.  The open-access policies can be found on the Office for Scholarly Communication’s website.


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