Classified Research

Policy Summary

It is the general policy of the university not to accept or perform research that is considered classified. Classified research is not compatible with open communication of knowledge within the academic community because it places restrictions on which faculty and students can access research data, the facilities required to carry out research, and/or research results. 

Related Regulations

Who is Governed by this Policy 

  • Students
  • Staff
  • Faculty


The George Washington University (GW) values the free exchange of knowledge through publication, education, and other means.  It also takes seriously its responsibility to contribute to the public interest and believes that it can best fulfill this responsibility by maintaining an open intellectual environment that allows peer evaluation of research methods and findings, free interchange of information with other scholars, and transmission of the latest research-based information to students. Classified research, research for which knowledge of methods and/or results is restricted to individuals who have U.S. government security clearances, may play a critical role in serving the public interest. However, it is not compatible with open communication of knowledge within the academic community because it places restrictions on which faculty and students can access research data, the facilities required to carry out research, and/or research results.   

The University Policy on Research, published in the Faculty Handbook, includes the following statements:  

A. The academic research program of any student working toward any degree may not be classified or restricted from access by other members of the academic community. 

B. University policy does not allow faculty to pursue research projects that restrict the freedom of the investigator to reveal the purpose, scope, or findings of the research. The University does not engage in classified research. Private consulting activities of faculty undertaken in accordance with applicable University guidelines are not covered by this prohibition.  

The present policy statement is an elaboration upon, and reaffirmation of that policy in the Post 9/11 context. 

A. Because of the university’s location, GW faculty, research staff, and students who wish to become involved in classified research may have opportunities to obtain security clearances through agencies and organizations other than GW and to pursue classified research projects on a consultant basis in accordance with applicable university guidelines.  The university encourages them:  

  1. To do so if they believe they can serve the public interest in this way and  
  2. To explore ways to coordinate their classified research with related but unclassified sponsored projects brought through the university and conducted at one of its campuses.   

B. Because the conduct of classified research at GW campuses would compromise open communication within the academy and would require the establishment of special facilities and other procedures, GW does not allow classified research or the storage or use of classified data at any of its campuses. Nor does GW provide security clearances for GW personnel who seek to access classified material housed elsewhere or to conduct classified research elsewhere as consultants.   

C. If circumstances strongly warrant, an exception may be made by the president upon the advice of both the vice provost for research and the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.  

D. The university will continue to base its evaluations of the scholarly work of faculty only on those works whose methods and results are made public.   

E. Faculty who would like to conduct classified research or access classified materials as consultants should: 

  1. Follow all Conflict of Interest protocols and policies defined by the university and their school (see section on Related Information for details),  
  2. Include a general characterization of the activity in their annual reports as required, and  
  3. Take all appropriate steps to safeguard against the work having an adverse effect on their research program at GW or their students’ educational progress. Care should also be taken to prevent the appearance of university participation in the classified work.  
  4. Additionally, non disclosure of any classified work will be treated as a conflict of interest violation.  

F. So that no student academic work will be placed in jeopardy of not being released for publication, no student research project, thesis, or dissertation for which academic credit is sought should require a security clearance or access to or involvement in classified research. GW students are free to participate in classified research as individuals if they obtain a security clearance through an entity other than GW and do not conduct the work at GW. 

G. GW researchers should be aware of the possibility that their research methods or findings could be exploited by enemies of the United States, whether the research is classified or not.  If circumstances warrant, they may wish to seek advice of the university’s general counsel and/or others, and may wish to consider delaying publication if it is in the public interest to do so. Similarly, GW researchers should be aware that outcomes of unclassified research sponsored by the federal government can be classified by the government at a later time and at which point, they may wish to seek guidance from the university about the pursuit of a line of research.    

Proprietary research sponsored by industry may also raise issues concerning restrictions on the open communication of information. It may involve the desire on the part of a company to keep secret a research discovery by a GW researcher or a company’s trade secrets, sensitive business information, or intellectual property. The sponsoring company may request to review publications in advance to aid in safeguarding against proprietary information being revealed. The company may also seek delay of publication while a patent application is being filed.


Classified Research: Research for which knowledge of methods and/or results are restricted to individuals who have U.S. government security clearances.  


For associated procedures and further details, see the Office of the Vice Provost for Research website. 

Related Information

Faculty and Investigators should refer to the Outside Interests, Relationships, and Professional Activities Policy which is managed through Faculty Affairs. 

Non-Faculty should refer to the Outside Interests, Relationships, and Professional Activities Policy

For consequences in not disclosing work see the Debarment and Suspension Policy 

To view any potential individual School policies on Conflicts of Interest, contact the appropriate Dean office. 


Contact Phone Number Email Address
Office of the Vice Provost for Research 202-994-6255  [email protected]
Office of the Provost 202-994-6510  [email protected]


Responsible University Official: Vice Provost for Research
Responsible Office: Office of the Vice Provost for Research

Noncompliance with this policy can be reported through this website.