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Incoming MTAs

Getting Materials From Other Researchers – MTA FAQs

Please note: the answers provided in these FAQs are by way of example only. They do not purport to provide legal or professional advice and may not be relied upon for such purposes.  Wherever a specific concern is encountered with a contract or issue, you should contact MILO.

What is a Material Transfer Agreement?

A Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) is a legal contract that governs the transfer of a material that is owned by one researcher or institution to another researcher or institution for research purposes.

Why do I need to use an MTA?

An MTA will protect your interests by clearly setting out what you can and can’t do with the material so that there is no confusion or dispute between the parties. For example, the institution providing the material may wish to restrict or control any publications relating to the material they have provided. To ensure that you retain your academic freedom, MILO will work with the institution to safeguard your ability to publish. Ultimately, McMaster requires all transfers of material either in or out of the University to be covered by an MTA. 

What is the process for getting an MTA in place?

The process for getting an MTA in place is as follows:

  1. MTA request submitted to MILO
    If you want to obtain material from an external researcher or institution, you should first complete the MTA (in) request form, which is automatically sent to MILO for review. This will provide MILO with the information necessary to determine what kinds of terms should be in the MTA.
  2. MTA reviewed / prepared by MILO
    If the researcher or institution has provided you with an MTA for your use of the material, a MILO officer will review the MTA to ensure it is appropriate for your circumstances and does not interfere with your academic freedom. In the rare cases where the researcher or institution does not have an MTA, the MILO officer will tailor an MTA for the circumstances.
  3. MTA signed by both parties
    MILO will liaise with the researcher’s institution to finalize the MTA and have it signed by both their institution and McMaster. The Principal Investigators from each institution will be asked to sign an acknowledgment which indicates that they are aware of and agree to the terms of the Agreement and the conditions attached to use of the material being transferred.
  4. Material released to you
    As soon as the MTA is signed by McMaster, the institution should provide you with the material so that you can do your research.

What can happen if I don’t use an MTA? Or if I sign an MTA without having it reviewed by MILO?

It depends on the circumstances, but in general, if you fail to use an MTA when receiving materials from other researchers, your rights to use the material may be limited. For example, if there is no agreement in place, you may find that if you subsequently discover something or create something using the material, your ability to protect and distribute that discovery or invention may be compromised.

Furthermore, if you use an MTA, but sign it yourself (without having it reviewed or signed by MILO), the agreement may not be enforceable. At McMaster, MILO’s Executive Director must approve and sign all MTAs. An MTA that is not signed by MILO’s Executive Director may not be valid and the signor may be personally liable for any claims that arise relating to the agreement.

For these reasons, it is essential that you do not send materials to other researchers without having an MTA in place and reviewed by MILO. 

What kinds of issues could be found in an MTA?

In many cases, McMaster researchers are presented with external MTAs which include provisions that can compromise their ability to publish or expose both the University to significant liability risks. For this reason, it is essential that all MTAs are reviewed by an officer from MILO. They will review the MTA to ensure that:

  • You are not restricted from publishing
  • The MTA does not give the external institution excessive rights of ownership to any modifications you make to the materials or any new discoveries or inventions you create through your use of the MTA
  • The MTA does not impose inappropriate indemnification or liability terms on the University
  • The MTA does not conflict with any other obligations relating to funding or other aspects of your research project

What sorts of regulatory compliance issues should I be aware of?

When obtaining materials from external researchers, there are many regulatory compliance issues which the University needs to address. This is why an MTA is so essential. Common regulatory compliance issues relate to

  • Toxic and hazardous materials
  • Radioactive items
  • Animal materials or materials derived from animals
  • Human samples
  • Drugs

Who can sign an MTA?

As an MTA binds the University, it can only be signed by an officer of the institution who has the necessary signing authority. At McMaster, all MTAs must be signed by MILO’s Executive Director. The Principal Investigator may also be required to sign the MTA to acknowledge that they are aware of the terms and conditions attached to the materials.

Who should I contact if I have more questions about MTAs?

Please feel free to contact MILO if you have any other questions.