Conflict of Interest

In recent years, the issue of conflict of interest has become increasingly important. University faculty and some staff members have taken on new and different functions in addition to the traditional roles of teaching, research, and public service. Spin-off companies transferring technology developed in the laboratory, extensive consultative activities, and various types of public service involvement are encouraged by both federal and state agencies, and by the University as necessary for the public good. Governmental agencies and universities, becoming more concerned about the extent and type of these activities as they relate to funded and proposed research as well as scholarly activities of faculty and some staff, have issued regulations that require universities to develop, publish, and enforce institutional policies which comply with certain federal mandates. Key in these policies is the requirement for regular, timely, and full disclosure of significant financial interest which could reasonably be seen by an impartial observer as affecting the design, conduct, or reporting of research or educational activities funded or proposed for funding by an external sponsor.

Conflicts of interest in research are unavoidable and disclosure of a conflict of interest does not imply that one has done anything wrong. But some conflicts of interest need to be carefully managed. As indicated in the Office of Research Integrity book “Introduction to Responsible Conduct of Research”, conflicts of interest that involve 1) financial gain, 2) work commitments, and 3) intellectual and personal matters should be dealt with carefully.

Financial conflicts of interest are of particular concern, especially if the potential rewards are “significant”. Real conflicts of interest create “tension between personal financial gain and adherence to the fundamental values of honesty, accuracy, efficiency, and objectivity” (see page 69 of http://ori.dhhs.gov/publications/ori_intro_text.shtml .) Perceived conflicts of interest, whether real or not, undermine trust. In many cases, financial conflict of interest can be dealt with by making full disclosures. 


Conflict of Interest Policy  (.pdf file)