Faculty Handbook

Conflict Situations

Last updated: 3/20/1970


Complementary to its policy with reference to "Outside Work for Pay," on March 20, 1970, the Board of Trustees adopted the statement on conflict situations published in December, 1964, as a joint statement by the Council of the American Association of University Professors and the American Council on Education entitled, "On Preventing Conflicts of Interest in Government-Sponsored Research at Universities." This section is reprinted below.

  1. FAVORING OF OUTSIDE INTEREST. When a university staff member (administrator, faculty member, professional staff member, or employee) undertaking or engaging in Government-sponsored work has a significant financial interest in, or a consulting arrangement with, a private business concern, it is important to avoid actual or apparent conflicts of interest between the Government-sponsored university research obligations and the outside interests and other obligations. Situations in or from which conflicts of interest may arise are the:
    • Undertaking or orientation of the staff member's university research to serve the research or other needs of the private firm without disclosure of such undertaking or orientation to the university and to the sponsoring agency;
    • Purchase of major equipment, instruments, materials, or other items for University research from the private firm in which the staff member has the interest without disclosure of such interest;
    • Transmission to the private firm or other use for personal gain of Government-sponsored work products, results, materials, records, or information that are not made generally available. (This would not necessarily preclude appropriate licensing arrangements for inventions, or consulting on the basis of Government-sponsored research results where there is significant additional work by the staff member independent of the Government-sponsored research);
    • Use for personal gain or other unauthorized use of privileged information acquired in connection with the staff member's Government-sponsored activities. (The term "privileged information" includes, but is not limited to, medical, personnel, or security records of individuals; anticipated material requirements or price actions; possible new sites for Government operations; and knowledge of forthcoming programs or of official announcements);
    • Negotiation or influence upon the negotiation of contracts relating to the staff member's Government-sponsored research between the university and private organizations with which the staff member has consulting or other significant relationships,
    • Acceptance of gratuities or special favors from private organizations with which the university does or may conduct business in connection with a Government-sponsored research project, or extension of gratuities or special favors to employees of the sponsoring Government agency, under circumstances which might reasonably be interpreted as an attempt to influence the recipients in the conduct of their duties.

  2. DISTRIBUTION OF EFFORT. There are competing demands on the energies of a faculty member (for example, research, teaching, committee work, outside consulting). The way in which the faculty member divides his/her effort among these various functions does not raise ethical questions unless the Government agency supporting the research is misled in its understanding of the amount of intellectual effort the faculty member is actually devoting to the research in question. A system of precise time accounting is incompatible with the inherent character of the work of a faculty member, since the various functions the faculty member performs are closely interrelated and do not conform to any meaningful division of a standard work week. On the other hand, if the research agreement contemplates that a staff member will devote a certain fraction of his/her effort to the Government-sponsored research, or the faculty member agrees to assume responsibility in relation to such research, a demonstrable relationship between the indicated effort or responsibility and the actual extent of the involvement is to be expected. Each university, therefore, should -- through joint consultation of administration and faculty -- develop procedures to assure that proposals are responsibly made and complied with.

  3. CONSULTING FOR GOVERNMENT AGENCIES OR THEIR CONTRACTORS. When the staff member engaged in Government-sponsored research also serves as a consultant to a Federal agency, the conduct is subject to the provisions of the Conflict of Interest Statutes (18 U.S.C. 202-209 as amended) and the President's memorandum of May 2, 1963 Preventing Conflicts of Interest on the Part of Special Government Employees. When the staff member consults for one or more Government contractors, or prospective contractors, in the same technical field as the research project, care must be taken to avoid giving advice that may be of questionable objectivity because of its possible bearing on other interests. In undertaking and performing consulting services, the staff member should make full disclosure of such interests to the university and to the contractor insofar as they may appear to relate to the work at the university for the contractor. Conflict of interest problems could arise, for example, in the participation of a staff member of the university in an evaluation for the Government agency or its contractor or some technical aspect of the work of another organization with which the staff member has a consulting or employment relationship or a significant financial interest, or in an evaluation of a competitor to such other organization.
University Responsibility 

Each university participating in Government-sponsored research should make known to the sponsoring Government agencies:
The above process of disclosure and consultation is the obligation assumed by the university when it accepts Government funds for research. The process must, of course, be carried out in a manner that does not infringe on the legitimate freedoms and flexibility of action of the university and its staff members that have traditionally characterized a university. It is desirable that standards and procedures of the kind discussed be formulated and administered by members of the university community themselves, through their joint initiative and responsibility, for it is they who are the best judges of the conditions which can most effectively stimulate the search for knowledge and preserve the requirements of academic freedom. Experience indicates that such standards and procedures should be developed and specified by joint administrative-faculty action.

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