Syllabi Citation Guidelines

BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine Syllabi Citation Guidelines

Report of the Syllabi Citation Guidelines Committee on August 20, 2014

Members: David Atkinson, Molly Cohen-Osher, Gwynneth Offner, Jarrett Rushmore, Keith Tornheim, Louis Toth, Carol Walsh, Susan White

Charge: “The Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine should establish guidelines for the management of all course syllabi with regard to proper attributions of authorship and content. These guidelines should emanate from a committee charged to examine current practice and best practices.”

The following document provides a report of the Syllabi Citation Guidelines Committee, as well as guidelines proposed for faculty distribution. The report and guidelines are based on committee discussion, input from presentations at the Preclinical Curriculum and Clinical Curriculum Subcommittee meetings, consultation with David Flynn and Joseph Harzbecker in the Alumni Library, and review and discussion with Dennis Hart from the General Counsel’s Office.

The Committee was advised that faculty rights regarding University course materials is an issue of concern on the Charles River campus as well, and there should be a uniform approach. Accordingly, provisions relating to that topic, such as those in section 2 below, should be deemed subject to further review and approval, as directed by the University Provost and President.

The report first addresses background information about author attribution and copyright relevant to teaching materials for all programs of Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine and then proposes specific guidelines for academic administrators, course directors, and teaching faculty.

1. Attribution in syllabi lecture notes

a. Authorship of text

The author of text provided in a course syllabus as lecture notes should be indicated in the document. This designation provides the author with appropriate credit for the intellectual effort expended in the preparation of the teaching material. The author has responsibility for assuring that the document complies with copyright law. The author of a document should be indicated, even when the teaching responsibility for the topic has transferred to another faculty member. A new instructor should retain reference to an original author until the document undergoes substantial revision. The reference style is at the discretion of the lecturer and course director; an example is “Material originally prepared by” or “Revision of material originally prepared by”. The name of the new instructor should be included in the document, and that instructor then bears responsibility for the copyright compliance of the text.

In some cases a group of faculty members may prepare the syllabus teaching materials. In that circumstance the names of the group members should be indicated in the syllabus. The group should make it clear to students which faculty member has primary responsibility for each component of the syllabus for purposes of clarifying information, confirming its validity, and providing supporting evidence from the literature.

b. Source of diagrams, figures and tables

Diagrams, figures and tables used in the text of lecture notes must have attribution to their intellectual source, if not original to the author(s) of the syllabus. If the author of the document has created the material, then the author’s name should be provided and the date of creation indicated. If the intellectual source is another person, then the complete citation to the source must be provided. Under copyright law, use for educational purposes of content owned by others may, under limited circumstances, qualify as a fair use for which permission is not needed. But the fair use doctrine is difficult to apply. It has the virtue of being flexible, but is also imprecise and requires consideration and analysis. It requires balancing the rights of the author against the rights of the educator who seeks to use limited portions of the work in the classroom. Use of substantial portions of another’s content, year after year, for example, even for strictly educational purposes, may well require permission from the copyright holder. Accordingly, faculty members are urged to use copyrighted material for which the BU Alumni Library already has license for use. An example of such a source is the library holding in Springer Images. For material from the extensive Access Medicine collection, permission should be sought for use of individual items by contacting the Head of Reference and Electronic Collections Management, Joseph Harzbecker.

The source must be acknowledged, e.g.,
Source: Katzung BG, Masters, SB, Trevor, AJ: Basic & Clinical Pharmacology, 11th Edition:
Copyright © The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

The decision to request use of copyrighted material should be planned carefully, as there can be significant lag time in obtaining permission and there may be charges for use.

2. Copyright designation in syllabi of compiled lecture notes

A syllabus is typically a collective work, incorporating intellectual content owned and authored by the faculty member, as well as content owned and authored by other faculty and third-party content owners (textbooks, journal articles and the like.) The University does not take copyright to the constituent parts – the faculty authored material or the text, diagrams figures and tables owned by third parties. But a syllabus prepared for use in a BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine course should bear a Trustees of Boston University copyright notice on the first page, covering the syllabus as a collective work and the course as a whole, and as an acknowledgment that the University owns and controls its curriculum and is responsible for the course as a BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine educational offering. An appropriate example of the language for this designation is:

Copyright 2014 Trustees of Boston University. Do not copy for distribution. Any unauthorized use of these materials is a violation of the BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine Student Disciplinary Code of Academic and Professional Conduct and may be a violation of federal copyright.

The University is entitled to continuing educational use of syllabi produced by its faculty employees. The faculty author of a specific component of the syllabus maintains copyright to that component, as would be the case with faculty writings or other intellectual output. (The Committee consulted with Dennis Hart about the legitimate use by faculty of their materials for purposes other than the educational mission of Boston University, such as teaching at other institutions, while or following employment at Boston University. The Committee was advised not to report on this issue as being outside the charge for its work.)

3. Implementation of guidelines

a. Role of academic administrators

The academic administrators responsible for GMS and MED course offerings should assure on an annual basis that new course directors are informed of their responsibilities for authorship designation and copyright compliance in course syllabi. Course directors should be directed to a BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine website for these guidelines (see section 3.b. below). An appropriate site would be within the BU Alumni Library Resources on Copyright, Intellectual Property and Patents (Research Help/Copyright Resources), located at:

 b. Role of course director

The director for a course at BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine should assume responsibility for verifying the appropriate citation of authorship and copyright compliance in course syllabi.

Course Director Guidelines for Authorship Attribution and Copyright Compliance for BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine Course Syllabus Material

The course director’s specific responsibilities include to:

  • Provide faculty members who contribute lecture notes with guidelines about author attribution and copyright compliance (see Section 4. below).
  • Verify that authorship and contact information are provided in lecture notes. If syllabus lecture notes involve the work of a group of faculty, provide students the name(s) of faculty primarily responsible for each component of the syllabus for purposes of clarifying information, confirming its validity, and providing supporting evidence from the literature.
  • Verify that diagrams, figures and tables are cited as to their source.
  • Assist faculty members in obtaining any necessary permission for use of copyrighted material, if an equivalent source is not available through a licensed holding of the BU Alumni Library.
  • Inform faculty members that lecture notes are provided for purposes of the educational mission of BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine and may be used in the future for the same or related course, even if the faculty member leaves the institution or is replaced as the lecturer for the topic.
  • Inform faculty members whose services are no longer needed as lecturer for a topic that their lecture notes with attribution of their authorship may continue to be used to fulfill the needs of the course. Adoption of this approach not only fosters collegiality but also permits learning from the original author about any issues with the teaching material that should be considered prior to its continued use.
  • Inform instructors whose primary appointments are not at Boston University that they have the right to specify in writing the copyright holders of educational materials they contribute to BU course syllabi. In so doing, the instructors from outside Boston University bear responsibility for complying with the copyright policy of their home institutions and give permission for educational use of the material in the BU course syllabi, including photocopying.
  • Add reference in the syllabus to Trustees of Boston University as holding copyright to the syllabus as a collective work.
  • Encourage faculty members who write lecture notes to provide citations to the biomedical literature, both primary and secondary sources, which support the information in the text, as appropriate.

4. Communications to instructors

Faculty members who are asked to contribute documents to support their teaching should be informed by course directors of their obligation to comply with appropriate attribution of authorship of these materials and with copyright laws. New instructors should be sent the guidelines described below, which should be available on the BU Alumni Library website under Copyright Resources, the BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine Medical Education Office under Policies, and the GMS faculty website The faculty should be reminded of these guidelines on an annual basis with request for revisions of course material. Reminders should provide a link to the guidelines on the Library website.

Faculty Guidelines for Authorship Attribution and Copyright Compliance for BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine Course Syllabus Material

  • Provide your name and contact information for documents that you prepare to include in a course syllabus for your teaching in BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine courses.
  • If you take on a teaching assignment from another faculty member and the document for a course syllabus continues to be appropriate for the topic, provide the name of the original author of the document and your own name and contact information as we Continue to reference the original author, until you have made substantial revisions to the document.
  • Provide attribution in the document for all diagrams, figures, and tables. It is good practice to include your own name and the date for materials that you create. If you wish to use diagrams, figures, or tables created by another person, seek appropriate permission and provide attribution.
  • Obtain permission for use of all diagrams, figures, and tables from a copyrighted source that are outside the domain of fair use. Seek help from administrative staff for this permission, but plan carefully as there may be time and cost constrain
  • Refer to the BU Alumni Library holdings for useful diagrams, figures, and tables that the Library has license for use without obtaining permission. Provide reference to the specific source, and indicate the copyright holder.
  • Refer to the BU Alumni Library resources on copyright (home page/Research Help/Copyright Resources), especially the document Campus Copyright: Rights and Responsibilities: A Basic Guide to Policy, with special attention to Sections G and H on fair use of copyrighted material for educational purpose
  • Contact BU Alumni Library staff, Joseph Harzbecker, Head of Reference and Electronic Collections Management, or David Flynn, Head of Library and Information Management Education, for assistance with copyright issues, or Dennis Hart, Associate General Counsel, BU Office of General Counsel, for clarification of legal

[Approved by the BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine Executive Committee on January 21, 2015.]