Recognize & Manage COI

If it is determined that the potential for a conflict exists and therefore should be managed or reduced, the COI Officer, in consultation with the COI Committee and/or administrative resource team as appropriate, will determine the appropriate course of action.

Options available for management of conflict of interest, include

  1. Notice to those involved in the project of the employee’s conflicting interests
  2. Appointment of additional, non-conflicted employees to monitor the project in terms of guarding against bias in research findings, providing additional accountability for financial matters, and/or protecting student interests.
  3. Public disclosure of the conflicting interest
  4. Acknowledgement of the conflict interest in consent forms
  5. Modification of the research or project design
  6. Removal of the employee from specific responsibilities

In some circumstances, elimination of the conflict may be deemed necessary, including

  1. Non-acceptance of the gift or grant
  2. Withdrawal of the proposed project
  3. Employee divestiture of the conflicted interest

The course of action decided upon should be documented in the form of a management plan.  The management plan should be shared with and acknowledged by the employee’s direct supervisor (e.g., department chair).  When the project involves external funding and/or human subjects research, the management plan also must be signed by a representative of the Dean’s Office (or equivalent) and the Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement.  Management plans should be reviewed annually or any time that changes occur with the project that could impact the nature of the conflict.  Approved management plans should be stored with the initial disclosure via the Cayuse system and shared with individuals responsible for oversight of research compliance (e.g., Departments & The Office of Research Integrity).

Management Plan Guiding Principles

  1. Existing University policies, State law, and Federal regulations dictate boundaries that employees must keep between their roles associated with the University and their private interests outside of the University.
  2. The substance and impact of the project should be appropriate to the mission of the University. That is, the project should contribute to advances in scholarship and/or provide educational opportunities for students.
  3. The conditions under which research and teaching take place should allow for the free exchange of ideas and materials, including the publication and dissemination of research results. Situations that would place restrictions on these activities should be carefully considered in light of University policies and should give reviewers pause.
  4. Any proposed use of University resources should be appropriate per University policy and State regulations. University resources should be defined in a broad sense, including equipment, office space, and staff time. This also includes resources unique to the university environment, such as students (e.g., in the testing of teaching materials), software (where license agreements often restrict use for instructional or academic purposes only), and the Institutional Review Board. University resources should not be used for personal or private gain, but are resources vested under our care for the public good.
  5. The potential effect of any given financial interest on a situation or project should be viewed in terms of
    • The reasonable likelihood that the results of the project could directly affect the value of related products, services or intellectual property in which an entity outside the University has an interest; and
    • The reasonable likelihood that the results of the project significantly impact the value of the outside entity or its sales.

Small Business/STTR Grants

Of special note are Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants. Employees may not serve as the Principal Investigator of an SBIR/STTR grant for both the outside small business and the University, as this would render it impossible for the interests of the business and the University to be kept distinct. In general, employees who have a financial interest in an outside entity may not serve as the Principle Investigator of an agreement between that entity and the University.   Additionally, there must be a very clear distinction between activities that are conducted at the University using University resources and activities performed at the small business site, and all work done using University resources must be consistent with University and State policy. Generally this means that the University’s involvement in the project should be focused on long-range exploratory work without immediate commercial value.

 

COI primary contact


Lisa A. Goble, PhD
Director, Office of Research Integrity
Phone: 336.256.1173
lagoble@uncg.edu