Memorandum of understanding & research compliance

A page within Community

Best practice for community-engaged instructional activities involves delineating the roles of the client, instructor, and students in advance. The Community Engaged Learning Project Plan serves as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) ensuring a well-coordinated and communicated project for all partners. Instructors should include a statement regarding community-engaged partnerships in the class syllabus. Research projects that will result in dissemination are subject to university compliance processes.

In addition to conversations with students regarding the scope and goals of a project and the ethical parameters of research or projects with community partners, a memorandum of understanding generated by the instructor and signed by the partner and the students (when appropriate) is recommended as a process, outcome, and learning tool. Below are two examples.

  • Community Engaged Learning Project Plan - Document to be used by instructors teaching courses/course sections which have an approved Community Engaged Learning Course Attribute Proposal.
  • Memorandum of Understanding MOU - Example of a MOU to be used by instructors for the purpose of achieving the objectives and aims of a specific project in courses not identified with a Community Engaged Learning course attribute.
    • Examples of outcomes could include materials, data, or publication production or other forms of intellectual property.
    • Confidentiality - in addition to to basic confidentiality parameters, certain settings may need addition compliances associated with HIPPA, etc..  The community partner should be responsible for the appropriate patient or client related disclosure agreements. 
    • Non-disclosure - the MOU may include a general non-disclosure statement that indicates that students will not talk about details of the project in public.  However, the community partner should be responsible for any specific non-disclosure requirements and the need for students to sign a more formal agreement.
    • A client-approved project description is recommended where the project is described without giving away client information. Students can use this description in their resumes, cover letters, applications, etc.  
    • Be mindful of potential copyright concerns to be articulated in an agreement. For information on what works may need to be covered see the Murphy Library Copyright Guide.
  • Photo release - necessary if your students take pictures of people and want to make these public. 
  • Legal contracts with community partners.  Any legally binding contract between the university and a community partner must be reviewed by Business Services and signed by an authorized signer.  Please contact Business Services with questions about contract authority.

Projects completed for and/or with community partners are still subject to all research-related compliance requirements and policies. Direct links to the most commonly needed compliance processes are listed below:

If you need assistance in determining whether a particular policy applies, such as the payments of incentives to research participants policy, contact the Office of Research & Sponsored Programs ( or 608.785.8007) for assistance.