RES-003: Federal Classified Research

Date: 06/23/2004 Status: Final
Last Revised: 07/21/2021
Policy Type: University
Oversight Executive: President of the University
Applies To:

Academic Division, the Medical Center, and the College at Wise.

Reason for Policy:

This policy describes the general guidelines for classified research. It is the policy of the University of Virginia to encourage the greatest possible freedom of communication of ideas and information in all areas of academic endeavor. However, in some instances, academic inquiry may produce results, the full and immediate disclosure of which would be detrimental to the national security of the United States of America. In such cases, it may be appropriate for the University to accept certain limitations on the communication of research results.

Each proposed classified research project will be considered on its own merits. The process by which the University shall decide whether to approve a particular classified research project proposed by a member of its faculty is included in this policy. Among the factors to be considered in determining whether a particular classified research project is acceptable to the University are the academic merit of the proposed research, the compatibility of the proposed research with the mission of the University, the nature of the restrictions placed on communication of research results, and the contribution of the proposed research to the benefit of humanity.

Definition of Terms in Statement:
  • Federal Classified Research:

    Research whose procedures and results are legally knowable only by individuals with United States government security clearance.

Policy Statement:

The University will not approve classified research projects for which the identity of the sponsor and the general nature of the research cannot be revealed to the public. It is the responsibility of a scholar to reveal in publications and presentations of research results the identity of the sponsors of that research. The University places no restriction on the nature of the activities of its faculty as private consultants, except that such activities must conform to University policy HRM-045: Faculty External Consulting and Internal Overload.

All projects involving classified research shall be reviewed through the procedure described below, including review by the appropriate chair, dean, representatives (2) of the Faculty Senate Research, Teaching & Scholarship (R&TS) Committee, and the VP for Research. A research project requiring that access to part of a University facility be restricted to persons with United States government security clearances shall not be conducted in buildings of the University that have a primary academic focus.

U.S. government classified information must be safeguarded in compliance with the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM) and as directed by the University’s Facility Security Officer. For additional information, see the Classified Research page of the Vice President for Research’s website.

No part of a thesis or dissertation submitted for an advanced degree at the University may be classified. It is the policy of the University to advise graduate students that classified research shall not comprise a major portion of their graduate studies. Classified research may not be considered in decisions about promotion and tenure of faculty until the research has been declassified.

The University discourages any restriction on its faculty in communicating unclassified information to any individuals, including foreign nationals and institutions, engaged in research at the University or in the international community of scholars.

  1. Responsibility:
    The Vice President for Research shall annually inform the University President of any and all classified research projects conducted by the University. The information provided shall include the general nature of the research being conducted, the sponsor, and the funding level.

  2. Compliance with Policy:
    Failure to comply with the requirements of this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination or expulsion in accordance with relevant University policies.

    Questions about this policy should be directed to the Office of the Vice President for Research.


A faculty member desiring to engage in classified research will notify the appropriate department chair and dean of this intention, providing each of them with an unclassified description of the project and a plan for preserving academic freedom for all faculty and students involved. The plan will specifically include appropriate counseling regarding the impact of the project on related dissertations, promotion and tenure, and student mentoring.

The chair and dean will be responsible for making sure that all involved faculty and students have received the appropriate counseling for preserving academic freedom. The dean will then provide the designated representatives (2) of the Faculty Senate R&TS Committee with the unclassified description of the project and a letter enumerating what safeguards are in place to preserve academic freedom for all faculty and students involved. The R&TS Committee designated representatives (2) will recommend additional steps if necessary to the dean to assure that all appropriate counseling has occurred. The R&TS Committee will not be reviewing the academic merit of the research.

After acting on the recommendations on the preservation of academic freedom from the R&TS Committee designated representatives (2) the dean will forward the unclassified proposal to the Office of Sponsored Programs for initial review of contract terms and requirements. The faculty member is required to submit a written description and justification of the project, its academic merit, and the restrictions on the dissemination of its results. This classified proposal will be submitted to the Vice President for Research for review and approval. The primary review criterion will be that the proposal be consistent with the University’s pursuit of its mission and not compromise basic human dignity or freedom. If the project is approved by the Vice President for Research, it will be processed through the normal sponsored program process. The Office of Sponsored Programs will receive only an unclassified version of the proposal.

The faculty member shall annually inform, in writing, the dean and Vice President for Research of any changes in faculty and students working on the project so the dean can ensure that appropriate counseling for preserving academic freedom has occurred.

Related Information:

HRM-045: Faculty External Consulting and Internal Overload

Major Category: Research Administration
Next Scheduled Review: 02/23/2024
Approved by, Date: Policy Review Committee, 06/23/2004
Revision History: Added Compliance section 7/21/21; Updated 2/23/21; 8/5/11.
Supersedes (previous policy):
XV.E.3: Classified Research.