Faculty Guidelines for Hosting Lab Visitors

Faculty Guidelines for Hosting Visiting Scholars

Many visitors from industry and other institutions come to Stanford to participate in research activities here. These visitors, who typically remain in the employ of their companies or institutions while here, provide knowledge and new perspectives on academic research. Known as “Visiting Scholars,” they do not receive compensation, insurance coverage, housing or other employee benefits from Stanford, nor are they enrolled as students. They come here to collaborate on research, often in one or more campus laboratories. Typically, they have doctorate-level degrees or are recognized leaders in their field.

Faculty and departments hosting these visitors need to follow the policies and requirements for Visiting Scholars set out in RPH section 10.5: Visiting Scholars.

Here are some things to note:

  1. Visiting Scholars come here to participate in university research projects; these are not teaching or staff positions. They do not include visitors who come to campus for occasional meetings.
  1. The faculty host is responsible to ensure the visitor receives all required training, including safety and regulatory training, before working in a university lab or participating in research.
  1. The visit may last for varying lengths of time, but the term of the appointment must be specified.  A minimum of three months is required for a Visiting Scholar card; departments may also decide that (renewable) appointments of no more than one academic year are advisable.  Although funding is not required for these visitors, the visitor’s employer may give a gift to the department.
  1. Departments must ensure that the visitor signs the appropriate university patent and copyright agreement. For visitors who have a concurrent intellectual property agreement with their current employer, this is the "Patent and Copyright Agreement for Personnel at Stanford Who Have a Prior Existing and Conflicting Intellectual Property Agreement with Another Employer" or  SU-18A. The agreement says that all patent rights and copyrights in what the visitor develops while doing research here will be jointly owned by Stanford and the visitor’s employer. The reasoning is that Stanford does not want university resources and facilities used for the sole benefit of a company or outside institution. The university is subject to IRS and other restrictions concerning such “private use” of its facilities. Faculty and departments should share the SU-18A agreement in advance with the visitor and his or her employer to avoid misunderstandings about intellectual property.
  1. The host faculty’s department should send an invitation letter to the Visiting Scholar, detailing the beginning and end date of the appointment, expected activities, etc. The letter should explain that the visitor must abide by relevant university policies, including signing the SU-18A. (See RPH 10.5.)
  1. Before inviting a Visiting Scholar, the host faculty should consider the visitor’s role in the laboratory or office  and the likely use of space, materials, and faculty and student time. If the visitor participates in research funded by an industry sponsor, the terms of the industry funding could potentially conflict with the visitor’s status, especially if patents or copyrighted works result from the visitor’s research.
  1. Visitors may not bring proprietary information or projects from their employer to work on at Stanford. Materials they bring to the laboratory must be freely shared.