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Conflicts of Interest and Commitment Policy

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

  • (Approved by the Board of Trustees, November 18, 1993)
  • (Amended, February 9, 1996)
  • (Amended, August 24, 2012)

Purpose

On June 15, 2012, the Board of Governors of The University of North Carolina amended the University of North Carolina policy on Conflicts of Interest and Commitment Affecting Faculty and Non-Faculty EPA Employees and the Guidelines on Implementing the UNC Conflict of Interest and Commitment Policy (UNC 300.2.2). The Board directed constituent institutions to adopt complementary policies and procedures, including definitions of conflicts of interest, methods for publicizing institutional definitions and requirements, and procedures and forms for disclosing relationships and circumstances that may raise questions about conflicts of interest.

The number and complexity of relationships between universities and members of their faculties and research staffs on the one hand and private industry, the federal and state governments, and the nonprofit sector on the other, have grown substantially in recent years. These activities are expected to continue to grow in light of reduced federal funding levels. Faculty and EPA nonfaculty employees are encouraged to engage in such outside relationships, to the extent they do not create a conflict of interest, if those activities are consonant with the University's mission of being:

  • a learner-centered, accessible, and inclusive community fostering intellectual inquiry to prepare students for meaningful lives and engaged citizenship;
  • an institution offering classes on campus, off campus, and online for degree-seeking students and life-long learners;
  • a doctorate-granting research university where collaborative scholarship and creative activity enhance quality of life across the life span;
  • a source of innovation and leadership meeting social, economic, and environmental challenges in the Piedmont Triad, North Carolina, and beyond; and
  • a global university integrating intercultural and international experiences and perspectives into learning, discovery, and service.

Facilitating the transfer of knowledge and technology to improve society is an important goal of cooperative University-industry and faculty-industry relationships. The purpose of this Conflicts of Interest and Commitment Policy is to provide guidelines for those relationships and procedures that will help insure the primacy of academic integrity. Refer to the UNCG Conflicts of Interest Procedures and Review of Disclosures.

This Policy is not intended to be a static document. Rather, it must evolve as the University and its community evolves in response to the broader societal environment. All affected employees are encouraged to propose additions or changes to the Policy. Unit heads should actively solicit recommendations from employees within their units. Recommendations for alterations to the Policy should be submitted to the Office of the Provost and the Faculty Senate.

Scope

This policy applies to all full and part-time faculty other than adjunct faculty (unless the adjunct faculty member is applying for or is an investigator on projects funded by federal grants), and to all full and part- time EPA nonfaculty employees. This policy also applies to faculty and EPA nonfaculty employees who are on a research leave or leave of absence.

Relation to Other Policies and Laws

  1. Federal Regulations and Guidelines
    This policy is designed to comply with the National Science Foundation's Investigator Disclosure Policy, 60 F.R. 132, pp. 35810-823 (July 11, 1995) (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-1995-07-11/pdf/95-16800.pdf) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services1 Objectivity in Research Rules, Subpart F - Responsibility of Applicants for Promoting Objectivity in Research for which PHS1 Funding Is Sought, 42 C.F.R. Part 50, Subpart F. (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-08-25/pdf/2011-21633.pdf)

  2. State Statutes
    North Carolina law prohibits state employees from directly or indirectly entering into or otherwise participating in any business transaction involving public funds (regardless of the source of the funds) with any firm, corporation, partnership, person or association which at any time during the preceding two-year period had a financial association with such employee.

    North Carolina law explicitly prohibits self-dealing (using one's University position to gain an unfair personal business advantage), misuse of confidential University information for personal gain, and having any personal interest in supplying goods to the state. State employees who have contracting responsibilities are prohibited from accepting gifts (other than honoraria or other items of nominal value) from contractors doing business or seeking to do business with the state.

  3. Other University Policies
    This policy supplements other University policies, including the Policy on External Professional Activities for Pay; the Policy on Political Activities of University Employees; the Patent and Invention Policy; the Copyright Ownership and Use Policy; the Promotion, Tenure,  Academic Freedom,  and Due Process Regulations; and the Policy on Employees Exempt from the State Personnel Act (EPA).

Policy

  1. Definitions
    1. "Business" means any corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, firm, franchise, association organization, holding company, receivership, business or real estate trust, or any other legal entity organized for profit or charitable purposes. "Business" excludes entities controlled by the University.
    2. The term "Covered Employee" means all faculty and EPA nonfaculty employees subject to this policy, as described above.
    3. Financial Interest is defined as:
      1. Payment for services to the Covered Employee not otherwise defined as institutional salary (e.g. consulting fees, honoraria, paid authorship);
      2. Equity or other ownership interest in a publicly or non-publicly traded entities (e.g. stock, stock options, or other ownership interest); or
      3. Intellectual property rights and interests upon receipt of income related to such rights and interest, held by the Covered Employee or members of his/her immediate family.
      Covered Employees are required to disclose Financial Interests in a timely and accurate manner consistent with this policy.
    4. An employee's "immediate family or household" includes the employee's spouse, life-mate, child, parent, sibling, grandparent and persons living in the employee's home who have a close personal relationship to the employee (i.e., one who is merely a rent paying tenant would not be included).
    5. The "initial reviewing official" is the person designated by this policy as responsible for receiving an employee's annual disclosure form and for determining whether any Category II, III or IV conflicts exist. The initial reviewing official is the employee's unit head. In the case of employees who hold administrative positions, department chairs will report to their deans, deans will report to the Provost, directors will report to the appropriate vice chancellor or the Provost (depending on who has primary responsibility for supervision of the director), and Vice Chancellors and the Provost will report to the Chancellor.
  2. Conflicts of Commitment
    Questions about conflict of commitment are more easily recognized and resolved than questions about Conflicts of Interests. Although full-time faculty and other non-faculty EPA employment is not amenable to precise, time-clock analysis and monitoring, administrators at the department and school levels regularly evaluate the work of employees within their units. The formal occasions for determining whether an individual is devoting sufficient time and effort to University employment include regular reviews of performance in connection with annual salary decisions and scheduled reviews incident to promotion, reappointment or tenure decisions. In addition, complaints from students, colleagues, or administrators about possible failures to meet assigned responsibilities may arise and require investigation. The issue, in each case, is whether the employee is meeting the requirements of the job. If presented with evidence that he or she is not meeting full-time responsibilities to the University, The Code prescribes that "neglect of duty" is a ground for disciplinary action, including the possibility of discharge. The following describe instances of activities that require specific monitoring to demonstrate compliance with policies

  3. External Professional Activities for Pay
    As required by UNC policy (UNC 300.2.2[R]), the University of North Carolina at Greensboro seeks to appoint and to retain, as employees, individuals of exceptional competence in their respective fields of professional endeavor. Because of their specialized knowledge and experience, these individuals have opportunities to apply their professional expertise to activities outside of their University employment, including secondary employment consisting of paid consultation or other service to various public and private entities. These practical compensated applications of their professional qualifications enhance capabilities in teaching, research, and administration. Thus, participation of employees in external professional activities for pay, typically in the form of consulting, is an important characteristic of academic employment that often leads to significant societal benefits, including economic development through technology transfer. However, External Professional Activities for Pay are to be undertaken only if they do not:

    1. Create a Conflict of Commitment by interfering with the obligation of the individual to carry out all University employment responsibilities in a timely and effective manner;
    2. Create a Conflict of Interest because of the individual's status as a Covered Employee of the University;
    3. Involve any inappropriate use or exploitation of University resources;
    4. Make any use of the name or marks of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for any purpose other than professional identification; or
    5. Claim, explicitly or implicitly, any University or institutional responsibility for the conduct or outcome of the External Professional Activities for Pay.
  4. The UNC Policy Manual, 300.2.2.1 [R], contains provisions established to monitor possible Conflicts of Commitment, including mandatory pre-approval at appropriate university levels of External Professional Activities for Pay. A faculty or non-faculty EPA employee who wishes to engage in External Professional Activity for Pay must adhere to these regulations to provide satisfactory assurances that the activity will not interfere with University employment responsibilities. These regulations may not apply to faculty and non-faculty EPA employees serving on academic year (9- month) contracts, if the External Professional Activity for Pay is wholly performed and completed outside of the contract service period and the activity does not conflict with the policies of the University or University of North Carolina Board of Governors and is not conducted concurrently with a contract service period for teaching, research, or other services to the institution during a summer session.

    In those instances when State-reimbursed travel, work time, or resources are used or when the activity can be construed as related to the Covered Employee's University employment responsibilities on behalf of the State, the employee shall not receive any financial consideration, including an honorarium. In these instances the employee may request that the honorarium be paid to the University. The honorarium may be retained by the employee only for activities performed outside of normal working hours, as defined by the University, or while the employee is on earned paid or annual leave, and all expenses are the responsibility of the employee or a third party that is not a State entity. Third party support may need to be disclosed under the implementing policies and procedures for Constituent Institutions. In addition, senior academic and administrative officers may also be subject to special regulations regarding honoraria which require leave to be taken when External Professional Activities for Pay will take place during the regular work week.

    Instead of using earned paid or annual leave as set out above employees who are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act and who are out of work due to an External Professional Activity for Pay, or who wish to retain an honorarium, may be able to use periodic uncompensated leave rather than annual leave, provided the Constituent Institution implementing policies allow the use of uncompensated leave, and the appropriate Department Head approves.

    External Professional Activities for Pay performed for another UNC Constituent Institution or agency of the State of North Carolina also must comply with applicable State policies governing dual employment and compensation, unless an exception to those State policies is expressly authorized by the chancellor or the President.

    The UNC Board of Governors has also established rules for monitoring and regulating the involvement of University employees in political candidacy and office-holding that could interfere with full-time commitment to University duties. Please refer to UNC Policy Manual (Political Activities of Employees), 300.5.1 et seq. for specific policy details.

  5. Conflicts of Interest
    The term "conflicts of interest" refers to situations in which financial or other personal considerations may compromise, or have the appearance of compromising, an employee's professional objectivity in meeting University duties or responsibilities, including research activities. The bias that such conflicts may impart can affect many University duties, including decisions about personnel, the purchase of equipment and other supplies, the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, the sharing of research results, the choice of research protocols, and the use of statistical methods. An employee may have a conflict of interest when the employee, or any member of the employee's immediate family or household, has a personal interest in an activity that may affect decision making with respect to University teaching, research or administration.

    It is the policy of the University that employees must avoid conflicts of interest that have the potential to affect adversely the University's interests, to compromise objectivity in carrying out University responsibilities, or otherwise to compromise the performance of University responsibilities. Accordingly, personal activities and financial interests must be arranged so as to avoid such conflicts. Failure to do so is a breach of this policy and may constitute misconduct or neglect of duty.

  6. Categories and Examples of Potential Conflicts
    Activities that may involve conflicts of interest or commitment can be categorized into four general groups based on the potential for adverse impact on the University's interests. Category I includes those activities that, while conflicts in the technical sense, are allowable because they are not likely to compromise the employee's objectivity. Category II includes those activities that may be allowable with administrative approval and oversight. Category III includes those activities that are presumed to be inappropriate. Category IV includes activities that are not allowable under any circumstances.

    Provided below are illustrative, but not all inclusive, examples of activities in each of the four categories.
    1. Category I - Activities That Are Routinely Allowable upon Disclosure Pursuant to This Policy2
      1. Receiving royalties for published scholarly works and other writing or for licensure of inventions pursuant to the Patent and Invention Policy and the Copyright Ownership and Use Policy.
      2. Receiving external professional activity for pay, in the form of honoraria or expense reimbursement, for secondary university employment responsibilities, such as service to professional associations, service on review panels, presentation of scholarly works, and participation in accreditation reviews.
    2. Category II - Activities That May Be Allowable Following Disclosure and, Where Necessary, the Implementation of an Approved Management Plan and Monitoring Procedures
      1. External Activities
        1. Serving on the board of directors or scientific advisory board of an enterprise that provides financial support for University research and the employee or a member of the employee's immediate family or household may receive such financial support.
        2. Serving in an executive position in a for-profit or not-for-profit business which conducts research or other activities in an area related to the employee's University duties.
      2. Financial Interests2
        1. Requiring students to purchase the textbook or related instructional materials of the employee or members of the employee's immediate family or household, which produces compensation for the employee or member of the employee's immediate family or household.
        2. Receiving compensation or gratuities from any individual or entity doing business with the University.
        3. Having a financial interest in a for-profit business which conducts research or other activities in an area related to the employee's University duties.
        4. Having a financial interest in a business that competes with services provided by the University.
        5. Covered Employee or a member of his/her immediate family or household having a Financial Interest in a publicly or non-publicly traded entity or enterprise.
        6. Accepting support for University research under conditions that require research results to be held confidential, or unpublished, or inordinately delayed in publication. Research conducted by faculty or students under any form of sponsorship must maintain the University's open teaching and research philosophy and must adhere to a policy that prohibits secrecy in research. Such conditions on publication must be in compliance with UNCGT Policy Manual 500.1 and 500.2, and with University Patent and Invention Policy and the Copyright Ownership and Use Policy.
    3. Category III - Activities That Are Presumptively Not Allowable, Unless an Approved Conflict of Interest Management Plan is in Place
      1. Participating in University research involving a technology owned by or contractually obligated to (by license or option to license, or otherwise) a business or entity in which the employee or a member of the employee's immediate family or household, has a Financial Interest, or with which the employee member or a member of the employee's immediate family or household holds an executive position or a consulting relationship.
      2. Participating in University research which is funded by grant or contract from a business in which the employee or a member of the employee's immediate family has a Financial Interest.
      3. Assigning students, postdoctoral fellows or other trainees to University research projects sponsored by a business in which the employee or a member of the employee's immediate family or household has a Financial Interest
      4. Accepting support for University research under conditions that require research results to be held confidential, or unpublished, or inordinately delayed in publication.
    4. Category IV - Activities that are not allowable under any circumstances
      1. A Covered Employee making referrals of University business to an external enterprise in which the individual or a member of the Covered Employee's immediate family or household has a financial interest.
      2. A Covered Employee associating his or her own name with the University in such a way as to profit financially by trading on the reputation or goodwill of the University.
      3. A Covered Employee making unauthorized use of privileged information acquired in connection with one's University responsibilities.
      4. A Covered Employee signing agreements that assign University patent and other intellectual property rights to third parties without prior University approval.
      5. Any activity otherwise prohibited by law or University policy.
  7. Submission of Disclosure Forms
    All employees are required to complete and submit a disclosure form on an annual basis as of July 1 to their initial reviewing official as defined in Section I.E. under Policy. Updated forms must also be submitted throughout the year if circumstances arise which either give rise to a potential conflict of interest or eliminate a potential conflict previously disclosed.

  8. Review of Disclosure Forms and Approval of Waivers
    1. Initial Review
      The initial reviewing official shall have the initial responsibility for reviewing the form and for determining compliance with this policy. That determination involves two questions: (1) has the form been properly submitted (i.e., on time and complete) and (2) does the information provided reveal any conflicts or potential conflicts in Categories II or III?
    2. Failure to Submit or Improper Submission of Disclosure Forms
      If the initial reviewing official determines that a form has not been submitted or is incomplete, the initial reviewing official shall take action to obtain compliance with this policy, including, if necessary, recommendations for disciplinary action.
  9. Category II Conflicts
    If the initial reviewing official determines that an employee has a Category II conflict the following options are available, depending on the circumstances:
    1. The employee may take necessary steps to eliminate the conflict (e.g., through divestiture of a financial or ownership interest or through cessation of the activity); or
    2. The initial reviewing official may grant a waiver with or without specified conditions (e.g., public disclosure of Financial Interests, or modification of the research plan) or monitoring requirements.
  10. Category III Conflicts
    If the initial reviewing official determines that an employee has a Category III conflict, the employee must, upon receipt of notice from the initial reviewing official, take immediate steps to eliminate the conflict or apply for a waiver. In order to obtain a waiver, the employee must sustain the burden of demonstrating that, in fact, the employee's objectivity would not be adversely affected or University interests otherwise would not be damaged. If the initial reviewing official decides to grant a waiver, with or without conditions, of a Category III conflict, the decision and the reasons for it must be forwarded to and reviewed by the next highest administrator who may accept, reject or modify the decision.

  11. Category IV Conflicts
    If the initial reviewing official determines than an employee has a Category IV conflict, the employee must, upon receipt of notice from the initial reviewing official, take immediate steps to eliminate the conflict.

  12. Appeals
    Refer to the UNCG Conflicts of Interest Procedures and Review of Disclosures for information on appeals.

  13. Confidentiality and Record Keeping
    Completed disclosure forms are confidential personnel records as defined by the State Personnel Records Act. The provisions of that Act governing access to and confidentiality of personnel records shall be strictly observed.

    Upon completion of the review process, the initial reviewing official should retain a copy of the disclosure form and send the original to the Office of the Provost for storage in the employee's official personnel file.

  14. Certification of Compliance and Report to Granting Agency of Irresolvable Conflicts
    Pursuant to 42 C.F.R. ยง 50.604 (k), each application for PHS funding must contain the following certification:
    "(1) There is in effect at UNCG an up-to-date, written and enforced administrative process to identify and Manage financial conflicts of interest, with respect to all research projects for which funding is sought or received from the PHS.
    (2) That UNCG will promote and enforce investigator compliance with the requirements of 42 C.F.R., Part 50, including those pertaining to disclosure of significant financial interests;
    (3) That UNCG shall manage financial conflicts of interest and provide initial and ongoing financial conflict of interest reports to the PHS Awarding Component consistent with C.F.R, Part 50. Page 8 of 8
    (4) UNCG agrees to make information available, promptly upon request, to the HHS3 relating to any investigator disclosure of financial interests and the University's review of, and response to, such disclosure, whether or not the disclosure resulted in the University's determination of a financial conflict of interest; and
    (5) That UNCG shall fully comply with the requirements of 42 C.F.R., Part 50."

  15. Report of Irresolvable Conflicts
    All financial conflicts of interest must be reported by the initial reviewing official in accordance with applicable regulations, including without limitation those pertaining to research funded by Public Health Service Agencies and the National Science Foundation.

Enforcement

Any violation of this policy may be considered "misconduct" under EPA employee policies.

Review

The Office of Human Resources and the Provost's Office will periodically review this policy as necessary.

Related Links

Policy Administrator

Comments or questions? The Policy Administrator for Non-Faculty EPA employees is Human Resources. The Policy Administrator for Faculty employees is the Office of the Provost.



Footnotes

  1. Public Health Service
  2. Category I activities may require reporting under other policies such as the Policy on External Professional Activities for Pay.