Confidentiality of dissertation or thesis
When writing a report, thesis or dissertation involving information of a confidential nature
In the course of your project, you may have access to sensitive or confidential information from an industrial partner. In such a situation, you must, from the beginning of the project, undertake not to transmit any information or document to ÉTS, including your research supervisor, without having first obtained the authorization of the partner company or companies. The company may ask you to sign a confidentiality agreement to this effect..
In addition, when writing your report, thesis or dissertation, you must agree not to include any confidential information, and also agree to obtain the authorization of the partner company(ies) before sending your report, thesis or dissertation to ÉTS for evaluation. Note that you may wish to inform the industrial partner that all members of the evaluation panel will be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement before they can access your report, thesis or dissertation for evaluation.
If the project is already subject to a confidentiality agreement stipulated in a contract, the professor and the student must ensure that the terms of the confidentiality clause in the contract are respected. All students must be informed of these conditions prior to their involvement in the project. The student may be asked to sign a declaration of confidentiality and to respect any other commitment made by ÉTS for a given project (article 26 of the Intellectual Property Policy and Rules (in French)).
Notes (sections of the Intellectual Property Policy and Rules. Free translation: only the French version is binding)
"ÉTS cannot sign a confidentiality agreement with an external partner that contravenes a student’s right to submit a report, dissertation or thesis for the purpose of evaluation or completing a degree." (Section 20)
"If the report, dissertation or thesis in question contains research results that touch upon industrial secrets that are likely to be affected by the disclosure of the results, the confidentiality must be limited to those elements that are associated with the industrial secrets and legitimate concerns in terms of protecting them, and not the entirety of the research results." (Section 30)
"In order to guarantee the free dissemination of knowledge and to maintain publishing rights, contracts must only contain obligations with respect to the non-disclosure of specific data or specific results in exceptional cases and for a limited time." (Section 55)
At the time of submission of a dissertation or thesis
- If the project is subject to limited disclosure (retention of the publication by the ETS library) pursuant to a contract, the professor and the student must comply with the publication clause contained in the contract.
- If the project is not subject to limited disclosure pursuant to a contract, and if the student or professor requests a retention of the publication (for instance, in order to file a patent), he/she can ask for a year (renewable), according to Section 27 of the Politique et règles en matière de propriété intellectuelle (Policy and rules respecting intellectual property).
The primary reason for delaying the publication of a dissertation or thesis is to allow for the protection of intellectual property.
Defense of theses and dissertations
For the student, the defense is an important moment that deserves to be shared with the community. Moreover, university research has an eminently public character since it is mostly financed by public funds, it is based on available previous results and the advancement of knowledge depends largely on their accessibility. When a project has confidential material, it is usually possible to make a public presentation with the sensitive material removed. Students and faculty are strongly encouraged to take such steps to promote a public defense of confidential theses and dissertations.
If it is not feasible to hold a public defense with sensitive material removed from the presentation, consideration may be given to invite certain individuals, given they previously sign a confidentiality agreement. This requires the explicit agreement of the industrial partner (and can be included in a confidentiality agreement). Copies of confidentiality agreements can be obtained from the Dean of Studies Office.
Reminder for students
Unless they are salaried employees for the project, students retain the copyright on their work, in conciliation with those of ÉTS and the professors.
Excerpts from the ÉTS Policy and rules respecting intellectual property
Excerpts from the ÉTS Politique et règles en matière de propriété intellectuelle (Policy and rules respecting intellectual property)
Works carried out in whole or in part by students
19. Students retain the copyright on their academic work, but this right must be reconciled with those of ÉTS (specifically rights pertaining to inventions, patents and software) and the professors-researchers who employ them or the Research Directors who engage students in association with their work. These rights specifically deal with the use and, if applicable, the confidentiality of the content of a report, dissertation or thesis.
20. ÉTS cannot sign a confidentiality agreement with an external partner that contravenes a student’s right to submit a report, dissertation or thesis for the purpose of evaluation or completing a degree.
21. Subject to the provisions of Sections 19, 24 and 25, students retain the copyright on their study work, reports, dissertations and theses that are completed within the specific context of their academic program. This right is even enforceable against the Research Director, unless a prior written agreement has been signed in consideration of specific circumstances related to the writing of the report, dissertation or thesis.
22. Notwithstanding Section 21, ÉTS retains physical ownership of the study work, reports, dissertations and theses that are completed within the specific context of its academic programs for the purposes of academic evaluation and for conservation or disposal in accordance with ÉTS’ rules governing the conservation of documents.
23. If the specific conditions associated with a research project are conducive to the writing of a report, dissertation or thesis, the Research Director must inform the student to this effect in advance, and of the rights of all parties involved with respect to the use of the results of the project.
24. Pursuant to Section 16, academic works produced by a student, either individually or as part of a group, while taking part in the activities of a research project conducted by a researcher, are the property of ÉTS, unless specific circumstances dictate otherwise. However, in such a case, a student may be included in the sharing of economic spin-offs associated with the intellectual property related to the work, in accordance with that student’s contribution to the creation of the work.
25. A student’s copyright on work that is completed within the context of a research activity that is carried out as a team or conducted by a Report/Dissertation Director or Thesis Director does not automatically extend to the entirety of the results that the student is associated with, and cannot deprive the other members of the team or the Director, supervisor or advisor of the rights resulting form their respective contributions to the activity. Consequently, inasmuch as a student’s contribution to the activity is acknowledged, that student’s fragmentary copyright associated with the activity cannot be used as a basis for preventing a director, supervisor, research advisor or any other member of the team from using the ideas, compilations or other data arising from the activity for the purpose of publishing a scientific article.
26. All students who are associated with a research project for which the Director is carrying out the work on behalf of external organizations pursuant to a contract or otherwise must sign a declaration at the beginning of their work on the project whereby they undertake to respect the contractual obligations binding ÉTS and the individual who is responsible for the project with respect to the external organizations, especially in matters pertaining to confidentiality and intellectual property. A model declaration is included in Appendix I.
Short-term confidentiality of a report, dissertation or thesis at the request of the student
27. The author of a report, dissertation or thesis that has been submitted to the Décanat des études (Dean of studies office) for evaluation may request that distribution be delayed for one year, renewable for a second year.
28. This delay in distribution applies even if the Research Director played an active role in the completion of the student’s research project, and even if the student wrote the report, dissertation or thesis in connection with the Research Director’s research project, unless an agreement to the contrary is signed between the student, the Research Director and the Décanat des études.
29. Notwithstanding Sections 19 to 26, a student must accept that elements of expertise that must be kept confidential will still be accessible to the evaluators, subject to their commitment to preserve the confidentiality.
30. If the report, dissertation or thesis in question contains research results that touch upon industrial secrets that are likely to be affected by the disclosure of the results, the confidentiality must be limited to those elements that are associated with the industrial secrets and legitimate concerns in terms of protecting them, and not the entirety of the research results.