UW Research
Policies, Procedures and Guidance

State Ethics Act of 2005 – Impact on UW Policy

The purpose of this document is to explain how the 2005 amendment to the State Ethics Act has affected UW policies relating to research and tech transfer.


In order to encourage the ethical transfer of technology for the economic benefit of the State of Washington, the Washington Legislature amended the Washington State Ethics in Public Service Act (“Ethics Act”) in 2005 to allow the UW to develop, adopt, and implement administrative processes that apply in place of the obligations imposed on universities and University Research Employees under specified sections of the Ethics Act.

Revisions to certain University policies have been adopted by the UW and approved by the Governor in 2007 in accordance with the provisions of the new law.

Changes to UW Policy

  1. University Research Employee definedThe new law defines “University Research Employee” as a state officer or state employee employed by a university, but only to the extent the state officer or state employee is engaged in research, technology transfer, or other approved activities related to research and technology transfer.  At the UW, this includes all faculty in the professorial ranks and other UW employees engaged in research and tech transfer.  For purposes of the revised UW policies, the definition of University Research Employee also includes the following professional and classified staff:
    • Research scientists and other UW employees, including professional and classified staff, who have been specifically assigned to sponsored research projects and whose work contributes to the design or conduct of research or to the analysis or reporting of results; and
    • Other professional staff members who have been granted the right to apply for sponsored research projects by the Provost or by their respective schools, colleges, or campuses.
  2. De minimis use of UW resources for consulting by University Research Employees is now allowedUniversity Research Employees (as defined above) who have received required approvals for outside work activities relating to research and/or tech transfer may use their assigned UW office, telephone, computer, and email and may use all UW library facilities on a de minimis basis for this approved activity, providing that:
    • no consumable UW resources are used,
    • no other UW employees are involved, except those also approved for the same activity
    • the employee is not using these UW resources to run a private business (other than a consulting business pertinent to her/his research or tech transfer endeavors)
    • the effort does not interfere with the normal duties of the UW employee

Impact on UW Researchers Engaged in Approved Outside Work

Essentially, certain activities involving the use of University resources and facilities that were previously prohibited are now allowed. Examples include:

  • Making a local or toll-free call on a personally assigned UW telephone to discuss an approved outside work matter.
  • Using a personally assigned UW computer and email account to correspond about an approved outside work matter.
  • Meeting in a personally assigned UW office with an outside work client to discuss an approved outside work matter.
  • Drafting a report or preparing a speech or presentation on a personally assigned UW computer to be submitted as part of an approved outside work activity.
  • Using an optical microscope personally assigned to and located in a faculty member’s office to view a slide relating to an approved outside work matter.
  • Using resources acknowledged by a supervisor to be personally assigned, where the use meets the above limited use conditions.
  • Using publicly available information or research data from the UW to carry out approved outside work.
  • Doing research for an outside work project using UW internet access and the UW library, providing no additional charges are incurred.

Examples of Uses that Remain Prohibited

  • Incurring long-distance or other toll charges on a UW telephone to discuss an outside work matter.
  • Using UW-purchased consumables to conduct outside work, including paper, toner, pens, etc.
  • Obtaining assistance from other UW employees or UW students to carry out or discuss an outside work project.
  • Using UW laboratories, laboratory supplies, or hardware to conduct experiments or carry out projects for outside work.
  • Using equipment that is not personally assigned or is not located in the personally assigned office to conduct outside work.
  • Running tests, assays, or analyses on UW laboratory equipment.
  • Using University cost centers (i.e., services for which there is a charge) for tests, assays, or analyses that are part of an outside work assignment without reimbursement to the University.
  • Transferring or using UW-owned intellectual property as part of an outside work assignment.