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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)
  • (Amended, October, 2014)
  • (Amended, Approved by the Chancellor, March 12, 2018)

Purpose

Consistent with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s research, teaching, and public service missions, the University encourages professional activities that promote intellectual exchange, enhance professional development, spark innovation, build capacity, and address pressing challenges both within our immediate and larger communities.  Faculty members may achieve these goals through traditional academic pursuits, such as teaching and publication in scholarly venues.  In addition, and increasingly, faculty and professional staff may add value to the University and the community by engaging in relationships with private industry and the nonprofit sector.  Consulting, service on advisory boards, translational research activities and commercialization of new technologies provide opportunities for faculty and professional staff to meaningfully engage with for-profit and non-for-profit organizations, building capacity both for the individual, the University, and the larger community.

At the same time, the trust of the larger public that is core to our identity as a public institution, and the expectations of scholarly integrity and objectivity that are core to our identity as an academic institution, must be kept central.  Relationships between faculty, staff and outside entities can engender circumstances where primary obligations to the University can become entangled with secondary opportunities that introduce the potential for or appearance of conflicts of interest when carrying out University responsibilities.  This can be most problematic when individuals stand to personally gain from particular choices.  More specifically, possibilities for financial gain can raise concern.

Recognizing that upholding the trust vested in both the University and its individual faculty and staff members is paramount for the continuing livelihood of the institution, this document defines our implementation of the UNC Policy on Conflict of Interest and Commitment (UNC 300.2.2, 300.2.2 [G], and 300.2.2.1[R]) by establishing policy for disclosing, identifying, evaluating, and managing conflicts of commitment and financial conflicts of interest.  The requirement that an individual’s external professional activities and potential conflicts of interest be disclosed and evaluated does not reflect on the integrity of the individual.  Rather, as members of a community that values intellectual discourse and transparency, we acknowledge that peer review is an important part of maintaining objectivity and credibility.  Further, the presence of a conflict does not imply that a situation is unethical or impermissible.  Instead, it means that the situation must be carefully evaluated and in some cases managed to avoid perceptions of bias and ensure integrity.

Scope

This policy applies to faculty and EHRA non-faculty employees, including those on research leave, or those on leave of absence (only items related to conflict of interest pertain to individuals on leave of absence), and those employed by a University Associated Entity.

Policy

Definitions

Conflict of Interest:
situations in which financial or other personal considerations, circumstances, or relationships may compromise, may involve the potential for compromising, or may have the appearance of compromising, a Covered Individual’s objectivity in fulfilling his or her university duties or responsibilities, including research, service and teaching activities and administrative duties. The bias that such conflicts may impart can affect many university responsibilities, including but not limited to decisions about personnel, the purchase of equipment and other supplies, the selection of instructional materials for classroom use, the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, the sharing of research results, the choice of research protocols, the use of statistical methods, and the assessment of student work. A Covered Individual may have a conflict of interest when he or she, or any member of the Covered Individual’s Immediate Family, has a personal Financial Interest in an activity that may affect decision making with respect to his or her University Employment Responsibilities. While a Conflict of Interest may result from nonfinancial interests or considerations, the overwhelming majority of Conflicts of Interest result from a Financial Interest of a Covered Individual who is in a position to make a supervisory, academic, or administrative decision which may be compromised because of the potential for personal financial gain.
Covered Individual:
any faculty, or any EHRA non-faculty employee, including employees who are on research leave or any employees of a University-Associated Entity. Faculty or EHRA non-faculty employees on leave of absence are covered by the components of this policy that pertain to conflict of interest only. This policy shall also apply to former faculty and EHRA non-faculty employees with respect to activities that occurred while they were employed at the University.  In the context of research, the content of this policy pertaining to conflict of interest also applies to SHRA employees, students, collaborators or consultants who have a role in determining the design, conduct, or reporting of research.   
Covered Individual’s Immediate Family:
a Covered Individual’s spouse, children, parents, and siblings.  “Spouse” includes a person to whom one is married or with whom one lives together in the same residence, shares responsibility for each other’s welfare and shares financial obligations.
External Professional Activities for Pay:
activities that are 1) undertaken for compensation outside the University; 2) performed for any entity, public or private, other than the university; 3) based upon the professional knowledge, experience and abilities for which the Covered Individual is employed by the University; and 4) is not included within a Covered Individual’s employment responsibilities.
Financial Interest:

  1. Payment for services to the Covered Individual not otherwise defined as institutional salary, including royalties (including royalties paid to Covered Individual or Covered Individual’s Immediate Family), or consulting fees and honoraria (except as excluded below) received by a Covered Individual or Covered Individual’s Immediate Family in the twelve months preceding the disclosure or anticipated in the twelve months following disclosure;
  2. Equity or other ownership interest in publicly or non-publicly traded entities (e.g. stock, stock options, or other ownership interest) held by the Covered Individual or Covered Individual’s Immediate Family in the twelve months preceding disclosure or anticipated in the twelve months following disclosure;
  3. Intellectual property rights and interests (including inventorship) held by the Covered Individual or Covered Individual’s Immediate Family in the twelve months preceding disclosure or anticipated in the twelve months following disclosure; and
  4. Gifts that have been made to the University for the direct benefit of the research or other professional activities of a Covered Individual in the twelve months preceding disclosure or anticipated in the twelve months following disclosure.
Financial Interest does not include:
  1. Salary or other remuneration (not listed above) from the University;
  2. Income from seminars, lectures, or teaching engagements sponsored by a Federal, state, or local government agency, an institution of higher education, an academic teaching hospital, a medical center, or a research institution that is affiliated with an institution of higher education;
  3. Income from service on advisory committees or review panels for a Federal, state, or local government agency, an institution of higher education, an academic teaching hospital, a medical center, or a research institution that is affiliated with an institution of higher education;
  4. Income from investment vehicles, such as mutual funds or blind trusts, where a Covered Individual or Covered Individual’s Immediate Family has no control over the selection of holdings.
Financial Conflict of Interest:
means a Financial Interest that could directly and significantly affect the design, conduct, or reporting of research.
University Employment Responsibilities:
Primary Duties and Secondary Duties. “Primary Duties” consist of assigned teaching, scholarship, research, institutional service requirements, administrative duties and other assigned employment duties. “Secondary Duties” means professional affiliations and activities traditionally undertaken by Covered Individuals outside of the immediate University employment context. Secondary Duties may or may not entail the receipt of honoraria, remuneration (see additional regulations, UNC Policy Manual, 300.2.2.2 [R]) or the reimbursement of expenses, include membership in and service to professional associations and learned societies; membership on professional review or advisory panels; presentation of lectures, papers, concerts or exhibits; participation in seminars and conferences; reviewing or editing scholarly publications and books without receipt of compensation; and service to accreditation bodies. These activities, which demonstrate active participation in a profession, are encouraged and often valued in promotion and tenure and other performance reviews, provided they do not conflict or interfere with the timely and effective performance of the individual's Primary University Duties or with related University policies.
Inappropriate Use of University Resources:
Any use of University-funded or supported resources, including but not limited to University facilities, administrative offices, work product, research results, materials, property records, or information developed with University funding or other University support except as otherwise allowed by University policy, for any purpose other than the Covered Individual’s University Primary or Secondary Employment Duties. A Covered Individual engaged in external professional activities for pay may not use any such University-funded or supported resources in the course and conduct of externally compensated activities, except as allowed by university policies (see Acceptable Use of Computing and Electronic Resources and Request for Use of University Buildings or University Property). Under no circumstances may a Covered Individual use the services of another University employee during that employee’s University work hours to advance the Covered Individual’s personal, non-University related interests.

Relation to Other Policies and Law

Existing regulations at the Federal, State, and University of North Carolina level govern the definition, disclosure, review, and management of activities that may engender Conflicts of Interest and Commitment.  The Federal regulations listed below pertain specifically to instances in which Covered Individual’s seek funding from the relevant agency.  A detailed summary of the requirements related to Federal and State policy can be found in the Guidelines on Implementing the UNC Conflict of Interest and Commitment Policy (UNC 300.2.2[G]).

  1. Federal Regulations and Guidelines
    1. The National Science Foundation Investigator Disclosure Policy, 60 F.R. 132, pp. 35810-823 (July 11, 1995) (https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-1995-07-11/pdf/95-16799.pdf)
    2. The Department of Health and Human Services Objectivity in Research Rules, Subpart F – Responsibility of Applicants for Promoting Objectivity in Research for Which PHS Funding is Sought, 42 C.F.R., Part 50, Subpart F (https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?rgn=div5&node=42:1.0.1.4.23#sp42.1.50.f )
  2. State Statutes
    1. The North Carolina Criminal Self Dealing Statute (N.C.G.S. 14-234) 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.
    2. Under the North Carolina State Government Ethics Act (N.C.G.S. 138A), 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. UNC System Policy
    1. Conflicts of Interest and Commitment Affecting Faculty and Non-Faculty EHRA Employees (UNC Policy Manual 300.2.2)
    2. Guidelines on Implementing the UNC Conflict of Interest and Commitment Policy (UNC Policy Manual 300.2.2[G])
    3. Regulations on External Professional Activities for Pay by Faculty and EHRA Non-Faculty Employees (UNC Policy Manual 300.3.3.1[R])
    4. Regulations for Senior Academic and Administrative Officers on External Professional Activities for Pay and Honoraria (UNC Policy Manual 300.2.2.2[R])

Conflict of Commitment

Conflict of Commitment relates to the Covered Individual’s distribution of time and effort between obligations to University employment and participation in other activities, compensated or uncompensated, outside of University employment. The latter may include such generally encouraged extensions of professional expertise as professional consulting (i.e. External Professional Activities for Pay). Such activities promote professional development and enrich the Covered Individual’s contributions to the institution, to the profession, and to society. However, a conflict of commitment occurs when the pursuit of such outside activities involves an inordinate investment of time or is conducted at a time that interferes with the Covered Individual’s fulfillment of University Employment Responsibilities.

Participation of Covered Individuals 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 an unmanageable Conflict of Interest;
  3. Involve Inappropriate Use 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 institutional responsibility for the conduct or outcome of the External Professional Activities for Pay.

Additional circumstances sometimes associated with External Professional Activities for Pay may require special consideration.  These include:

  1. 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 Individual’s University Employment Responsibilities on behalf of the State, the Covered Individual shall not receive any financial consideration, including an honorarium. In these instances, the Covered Individual may request that the honorarium be paid to the university. The honorarium may be retained by the Covered Individual only for activities performed outside of 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. 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. Please refer to the University Policy on External Professional Activities for Pay by Faculty and EHRA Non-Faculty Employees.
  2. 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.
  3. The 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, 5.1 et seq. for specific policy details.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro Policy on External Professional Activities for Pay by Faculty and EHRA Non-Faculty Employees provides additional details regarding the application of this policy and UNC Policy 300.2.2.1[R].  Specifically, it contains provisions established to monitor possible Conflicts of Commitment, including mandatory pre-approval at appropriate university levels of External Professional Activities for Pay. A Covered Individual who wishes to engage in External Professional Activities for Pay must adhere to these regulations to provide satisfactory assurances that the activity will not interfere with University Employment Responsibilities. The regulations regarding mandatory pre-approval do not apply to faculty and non-faculty EHRA 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 (i.e., summer months), the activity does not otherwise conflict with the policies of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro or the UNC Board of Governors, and the activity is not conducted concurrently with a contract service period for teaching, research, or other services to the institution during a summer session.

A select list of activities conducted under specific circumstances is exempt from the mandatory pre-approval process .  This information can be found in the UNC Greensboro Policy on External Professional Activities for Pay by Faculty and EHRA Non-faculty Employees.

External Activities for Pay not involving the professional knowledge, experience and abilities for which the Covered Individual is employed at the university (i.e., non-professional activities that are part of an employee’s private life) are not subject to the advance disclosure and approval requirements of this policy. As with all activities for pay outside of the university, however, consideration should be given to whether they could generate a Conflict of Interest, or the appearance of such.

Conflict of Interest

Categories of Potential Financial Conflicts of Interest In accordance with UNC Policy Manual 300.2.2[G], which provides guidelines for the review, classification, and management of potential Conflicts of Interest, activities (including External Professional Activities for Pay) that may involve Conflicts of Interest can be categorized into four general groups based on the nature of the Financial Interest and its potential for introducing bias into the conduct of University Employment Responsibilities. Category I includes those activities that, while conflicts in the technical sense, are allowable because they are not likely to compromise the Covered Individual’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 carry significant risk of introducing bias, but which may be allowable if managed appropriately. Category IV includes activities that are not allowable under any circumstances. The following examples are merely illustrative and do not include all possible situations within the four categories.

Category I

Activities that are routinely allowable upon disclosure pursuant to this policy.

The examples cited below involve activities external to university employment, and thus may present the appearance of a Financial Conflict of Interest, but have little or no potential for affecting the objectivity of the Covered Individual’s performance of University Employment Responsibilities. At most, some such situations could prompt questions about Conflicts of Commitment.

  • Receiving royalties for published scholarly works and other writing, or other royalties paid to the Covered Individual by the University.
  • Receiving honoraria or expense reimbursement for a secondary University Employment Responsibility, such as service to a professional association, service on a review panel, or participation in accreditation reviews.
Category II

Activities that may be allowable following disclosure and, where necessary, the implementation of an approved management plan and monitoring procedures.

The examples cited below suggest a possibility of conflicting interests that can impair objectivity, but disclosure and resulting analysis of relationships may render the activity permissible and may result in the establishment of an approved management plan.

  • A Covered Individual requiring students to purchase the textbook or related instructional materials of the employee or members of his or her immediate family, which produces compensation for the employee or family member.
  • A Covered Individual receiving compensation or gratuities from any individual or entity doing business with the University. Note that no university employee may seek or receive any gift, reward, or promise of reward for recommending, influencing, or attempting to influence the award of a contract by his or her employer (See N.C.G.S. 14-234 and N.C.G.S 138A).
  • A Covered Individual 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 his or her immediate family may receive such financial support.
  • A Covered Individual or a member of his/her immediate family having a Financial Interest in a publicly or non-publicly-traded entity or enterprise.
  • Covered Individual accepting support for University research under conditions that require research results to be held confidential, 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 UNC Policy Manual 1 and 500.2, and with campus Intellectual Property policies.
Category III

Activities that are presumptively not allowable, unless an approved management plan and monitoring procedures are in place.

The examples cited below involve situations that are not generally permissible, because they involve potential Financial Conflicts of Interest that present obvious opportunities or inducements to favor personal interests over institutional interests. Before proceeding with such an endeavor, the University must approve a management plan that would protect against bias and otherwise protect the University’s interests.

  • A Covered Individual participating in University research involving a technology owned by or contractually obligated to (by license or an option to license, or otherwise) an enterprise or entity in which the Covered Individual or Covered Individual’s Immediate Family has a consulting relationship, has an equity or ownership interest, or holds an executive position.
  • A Covered Individual participating in University research which is funded by a grant or contract from an enterprise or entity in which the Covered Individual or Covered Individual’s Immediate Family has an equity or ownership interest.
  • A Covered Individual assigning students, post-doctoral fellows or other trainees to University research projects sponsored by an enterprise or entity in which the Covered Individual or Covered Individual’s Immediate Family has a Financial Interest.
Category IV

Activities that are not allowable under any circumstances

  • A Covered Individual making referrals of University business to an external enterprise in which the Covered Individual or Covered Individual’s Immediate Family has a Financial Interest.
  • A Covered Individual 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.
  • A Covered Individual making unauthorized use of privileged information acquired in connection with one's University responsibilities.
  • A Covered Individual signing agreements that assign University patent, copyright or other intellectual property rights, pursuant to applicable University policies, to third parties without prior University approval.
  • Any activity otherwise prohibited by law or University policy

Required Action Regarding Conflicts of Interest It is the policy of the University that activities that may result in actual or perceived Conflicts of Interest related to the conduct of University Employment Responsibilities must be disclosed for review, and any potential Conflicts of Interest must be managed or eliminated prior to engaging in the activity. In most situations, it is possible to mitigate the risk associated with conflicts of interest by introducing a structure of checks and balances via a management plan. Detailed procedures for the review and management of potential conflicts of interest are found in the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Procedures for the Disclosure, Review, and Management of Activities Involving Potential Conflicts of Interest

Covered Individuals have several responsibilities for understanding, disclosing, and managing Conflicts of Interest or Conflicts of Commitment pursuant to Federal, State, and local regulations. 

  1. All Covered Individuals who will play a role in the design, conduct, or reporting of an externally funded project must complete financial conflict of interest training at least once every four years.
  2. Transparency on the part of both Covered Individuals and the University regarding activities that may involve Conflicts of Interest is essential for maintaining objectivity and upholding the public trust instilled in us as an agency of the State and as an institution of higher education. As such, Covered Individuals must disclose activities outside the university in which they have a Financial Interest that could be perceived to introduce bias into the conduct of their University Employment Responsibilities. Covered Individuals must disclose such activities at the following points (detailed procedures for disclosure of these activities are outlined in the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Procedures for Disclosure and Review of Activities Involving Potential Financial Conflicts of Interest):
    1. Prior to submission of proposals for external funding (specific to activities that are related to the project at hand)
    2. Prior to renewal of continuing projects receiving external funding (generally annually, and specific to activities that are related to the project at hand)
    3. When submitting a Notice of Intent of External Professional Activities for Pay
    4. When prompted to complete the University’s annual disclosure process
    5. At any point at which a situation arises that may generate a Conflict of Interest
  3. Continued transparency through the review and management of potential conflicts of interest and commitment is expected of Covered Individuals. For situations in which a management plan is put into place, Covered Individuals are expected to adhere to the management plan and be active partners with the University in ensuring that they carry out their University Employment Responsibilities fully and with objectivity and integrity.
  4. Covered Individuals receiving funding from the Public Health Service must disclose reimbursed or sponsored travel paid for by entities outside of the university, including businesses, foreign governments, foreign universities, non-profits, and non-government organizations. Reimbursed or sponsored travel does not have to be disclosed when it is paid directly through the university, by a US federal, state, or local government agency, or by a US institution of higher education, academic teaching hospital, medical center, or a research institute affiliated with an institution of higher education.

The University has several responsibilities with regard to promoting objectivity and ensuring compliance with Federal, State, and local regulations related to situations involving actual or perceived conflicts of interest and commitment. 

  1. The University will maintain an up-to-date, written policy and process for identifying and managing Financial Conflicts of Interest.
  1. The University will keep the campus community informed of the policies and procedures related to Conflict of Interest and will make every effort to provide accessible and timely professional development related to the topic.
  1. The University will monitor and enforce implementation of Conflict of Interest policies and procedures.
  1. With regard to projects for which funding is sought or received from the Public Health Service, the University will a) promote and enforce compliance with the requirements of 42 C.F.R., Part 50, including those pertaining to disclosure and management of financial conflicts of interests and reporting to the PHS awarding component regarding initial and ongoing conflicts; b) make information available to the HHS, promptly upon request, regarding any investigator’s disclosure of financial interests and the University’s review off, and response to, such disclosure, whether or not the disclosure resulted in a determination that a conflict of interest exists; and c) fully comply with the requirements of 42 C.F.R., Part 50.

Confidentiality

In accordance with the federal regulations, the University will make information available to the public regarding Financial Conflicts of Interest for any principal investigator/project director and any other person identified as senior/key personnel by the University in a grant application, progress report, or any other report submitted to a Public Health Service awarding component, in conjunction with a specifically Public Health Service funded research project. In accordance with Public Health Service regulations, the following information will be provided: (a) Project Number, (b) Name of the Investigator with a Conflicted Interest, (c) Investigator’s title and role with respect to the Public Health Service research project, and (d) Nature of the financial interest (e.g. equity, consulting fee, travel reimbursement, honorarium); and Value of the financial interest (in ranges), or a statement that the interest is one whose valued cannot be readily determined through reference to public prices or other reasonable measure of fair market value.

Disclosures of activities and information related to External Professional Activities for Pay, Conflict of Commitment, and Conflict of Interest may be confidential records pursuant to N.C.G.S. 126-22 (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records).

Enforcement

The Chancellor has delegated authority for administration of this policy as it related to Conflict of Interest to the Director of Research Integrity.

The Chancellor has delegated authority for administration of this policy as it relates to Conflict of Commitment to the Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (faculty), and for EHRA non-faculty, to the Vice Chancellor for the division within which the Covered Individual is employed.

Any violation of this policy may be considered “misconduct” under EHRA faculty and non-faculty employee policies.  It should be noted that violation of this policy may also implicate violations in related federal regulations and state statutes as discussed in this policy and could result in penalties outside the auspices of the University.

Related Policies

The State of North Carolina
  • North Carolina General Statute on Public Officers or Employees Benefiting from Public Contracts; Exceptions (N.C.G.S. 14-234)
  • North Carolina State Government Ethics Act (N.C.G.S. 138A)
UNC System
  • UNC Policy on Conflict of Interest and Commitment (330.2.2, 300.2.2[G], 300.2.2.1[R], 300.2.2.2[R]
  • UNC Policy on University Research Relations with Private Enterprise (500.1)
  • UNC Policy on Patent and Copyright Policies (500.2)
UNC Greensboro
  • UNCG Policy on Political Activities of University Employees
  • UNCG Patent and Invention Policy
  • UNCG Copyright Ownership and Use Policy
  • UNCG Promotion, Tenure, Academic Freedom, and Due Process Regulations
  • UNCG Policy on Employees Exempt from the State Personnel Act
  • UNCG Policy on External Professional Activities for Pay by Faculty and EHRA Non-Faculty Employees

Reporting and Contact Information

Alan Boyette, Senior Vice Provost
336-334-5494
Alan_Boyette@uncg.edu
Lisa Goble, Director of Research Integrity
336-256-1173
lagoble@uncg.edu

Policy Administrator

Lisa Goble, Director of Research Integrity
336-256-1173
lagoble@uncg.edu