Negotiating research agreements, relationships with grace

A graphic shows Laura Irick on the left and on the right show text boxes that read, "Unsung Hero, Laura Irick, Office of Research"

Laura Irick | Contract Officer | Office of Research | September 2020

Laura Irick is not easily intimidated.
As an Office of Research contract officer, she’s part of a small team that reviews more than 1,000 documents a year, ensuring compliance with university, agency, state and federal regulations and policies; obtaining authorized signatures for agreements; and issuing subaward agreements. It’s a complex task, and no project ever looks exactly the same.
But Irick tackles those challenges with curiosity, creativity, care and charm. This year she successfully negotiated an agreement with a pharmaceutical company to obtain thousands of chemical compounds for a KU researcher at no cost to the university.
“Her perseverance to resolve the complexity of the language in the agreement and find a middle ground for a win-win deal between KU and the company was exceptional,” a colleague said.
Negotiating contracts is both a science and an art. Irick is “extremely diligent in researching laws, rules and regulations pertinent to research at the state and federal level.” At the same time, she employs nuance, personability and expert timing to achieve successful outcomes.
“She recently completed a very long negotiation with an industry partner. She persisted for almost nine months,” a colleague reported. “When it went dormant on the industry side, she kept it on the table and knew when to prod. Personality-wise, that requires acuity in reading an exchange.”
That power of perception extends to Irick’s interpersonal relationships with coworkers, who describe her as an empathetic, approachable, helpful team player. When KU Research staff dispersed this spring to work remotely, Irick sensed the need for connection and composed a song to “make people smile and lift spirits.” She sang and played ukulele in the recording, which celebrates the work that goes into supporting the KU research community. As one peer noted, “She never forgets to give credit to a colleague who deserves it.”