Policy on Confidentiality

HMC Clinic projects are generally conducted in an open academic forum of students and faculty. The purposes are first, student education, and second, client benefit. We believe that these goals are best realized under the most realistic team–client relationships possible. Therefore, it is important for all parties—the client, students, and faculty—to come to an understanding about specific confidentialities at the outset of project work.

Strict confidentiality in the industry sense is not feasible within the college environment, where the learning process involves free and open interchange of ideas and criticism. We recognize a hierarchy of company confidences including proprietary formulations, product performance, research and design data, manufacturing costs, sales, and so forth. We also note that such confidences may be revealed incidentally or accidentally in an otherwise relatively open project.

Potential clients should be alerted to the following educational practices in our Clinic operations:

  • As a center of learning, HMC must bear in mind that the educational value of the Clinic experience for students is paramount. But this fact need not be a inconsistent with a reasonable policy of confidentiality. Indeed, the educational value of the Clinic experience is enhanced by the overtones of confidentiality because all professional practice requires judgment in dealing with customer confidences. In particular, Clinic students need to learn the distinction between client-generated data and Clinic-generated data. The HMC Clinics can provide a safe and supportive climate for teaching students how to develop professional attitudes on the rights of the respective parties. Specific applications of Clinic work naturally belong to the client who paid for the work, but Clinic-generated abstract models and data can form the basis of publishable work by Clinic faculty and students.
  • At the end of the academic year, a “Projects Day” open house permits each student team to present its results to a limited group of invited client representatives and guests.
  • Throughout the academic year, Clinic project teams give several presentations describing the progress of their work at weekly meetings. All faculty and students are invited to attend these presentations, and attendance by Clinic sponsors representatives is an occasional occurrence.
  • The faculty and students involved in Clinic work reserve the right to timely publication of novel results generated by Clinic teams while working on a client’s project. Project-related work may be submitted for publication within a year after delivery of the final report only with the client’s approval. Following that year, the client must be given an opportunity to review and comment on any proposed publication. The one-year delay allows the client to initiate patent defense of any innovation arising in the work. The Clinic team and the college agree to assign patent rights to paying clients.
  • Because of the impossibility of maintaining requisite security procedures, it is Clinic policy to decline “classified” projects from U.S. government agencies.