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Penn State seeks to streamline the sponsored research contract review process with artificial intelligence solution

The strategic pilot project to explore a “combined intelligence” solution for the negotiation of sponsored-research contracts at the University emerged from a Penn State Law Legal-Tech Virtual Lab pop-up event with LegalSifter.
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State’s Office of Sponsored Programs, Penn State Law in University Park, and LegalSifter, Inc. have announced a strategic pilot project to explore a “combined intelligence” solution for the negotiation of sponsored-research contracts. Penn State’s vast expertise, in collaboration with LegalSifter’s artificial intelligence (AI) solution, may help the University’s negotiators to review contracts more quickly and confidently, while in compliance with best practices. 

This pilot project emerged from a Penn State Law Legal-Tech Virtual Lab pop-up event with LegalSifter. The Virtual Lab partners with individuals across Penn State and with legal-tech and legal education leaders to prepare its students to lead as technology, law, and industry rapidly change. When LegalSifter introduced its AI-powered contract analysis tool to law students and the Penn State community, it became clear that there may be an opportunity to test how this tool could assist with contract analysis in sponsored research.

Penn State’s Sponsored Programs team members identified as users will start by uploading draft contracts into LegalSifter. Sifters – which are software modules trained to read text, look for specific concepts, and learn those concepts over time – then review the document that’s been uploaded and identify important concepts which demand attention, or which are missing. The sifters trigger “help text,” which are in-context advice tailored to Penn State’s best practices.

Penn State Law students will serve as externs on this project beginning in fall 2020, helping to assess how well the tool is analyzing contracts. Students can access the product now. Contract negotiators will have access to the University’s positions on a number of key negotiation provisions.  Because the product is fully configurable, Penn State will be able to adjust advice offered to internal users to align with its best practices.​

“Penn State is nationally and internationally recognized for being an innovative and bold research organization. This also applies to innovation for our research operations, and in particular to our Office of Sponsored Programs. With LegalSifter’s AI product, we will aim to streamline the review process of our sponsored research contracts, possibly leading to reduced costs and improved timeliness of our reviews,” said Lora Weiss, senior vice president for research at Penn State, whose office is responsible for facilitating nearly $1 billion per year in research activity across the University.

“Penn State will benefit from the combination of algorithms and expertise. We are thrilled to be able to serve Penn State with our powerful AI product that reads contracts and provides advice," said Kevin Miller, CEO of LegalSifter.

“We are very excited about the possibility of this pilot project serving as a model for how law schools can collaborate with legal-tech companies, and across the University to create societal benefit and prepare students to lead,” said Hari Osofsky, dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs.​

LegalSifter is dedicated to bringing affordable legal services to the world by empowering people with artificial intelligence. LegalSifter intends to achieve its mission by working with the legal profession. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, LegalSifter offers its products directly to organizations as well as through and with law firms.

The Office of Sponsored Programs provides central coordination and oversight of Penn State-sponsored projects, including processing proposals and negotiating grants, contracts, and other agreements.

Penn State Law is at the forefront of the legal-tech movement, both with the innovative Virtual Lab that teaches law students how technology is changing legal practice, and through the use of advanced audiovisual telecommunications tools to allow for distance learning and collaboration beyond the law school.

For more information about Penn State’s use of LegalSifter, Inc., contact John Hanold, associate vice president for research and director of sponsored programs, or Brenda Brooks, associate director of sponsored programs.

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