Policies

9.03 Management of Conflicts of Interest in Projects with External Funding

In response to recently adopted regulations by NSF and NIH, all universities and colleges must adopt a policy on Conflict of Interest in order to remain eligible to apply for NSF or NIH funds, as well as other federally funded grants and contracts.

The University of Northern Iowa requires investigators on proposals to all external agencies, public or private, to disclose to the University, prior to submittal of the proposal, any significant financial interest (including those of spouse and dependent children) that would reasonably appear to be affected by the project. Such a disclosure is facilitated by a question on the University's Request for External Funds form. If there is a potential or actual conflict of interest, the University's Financial Disclosure Form must be completed by the investigator(s).

The University of Northern Iowa and its employees have interacted with government bodies, private companies and individuals external to the institution. As interest grows in stimulating technology transfer and encouraging economic development, the number and types of external relationships will grow correspondingly. The University of Northern Iowa's increasing interactions with non-university entities raises for faculty and staff members a variety of issues and concerns. Central to these is ensuring that all parties to an agreement are fully aware of any personal or contractual relationships that might have relevance to or compete with a particular project.

I. DEFINITION OF CONFLICT OF INTEREST

A conflict of interest may take various forms but arises when a faculty or staff member is or may be in a position to influence the university's business, research, or other decisions in ways that could lead to any form of personal gain for the faculty or staff member or others closely associated with that university employee.

II. PURPOSE OF POLICY

This policy provides a mechanism for:

  1. identifying conflicting non-university relationships

  2. informing those with a need to know about conflicting relationships through disclosure

  3. taking remedial steps to protect the interests of all concerned

III. REQUIRED DISCLOSURES

Investigators must disclose to the University of Northern Iowa all significant financial interests:

  1. that would reasonably appear to be affected by the research or educational activities funded or proposed for funding; and

  2. in entities whose financial interests would reasonably appear to be affected by such activities

A significant financial interest means anything of monetary value, including but not limited to salary or other payments for services (e.g., consulting fees or honoraria), equity interests (e.g., stocks, stock options, or other ownership interests); and intellectual property rights (e.g., patents, copyrights, and royalties). "Investigator" means the principal investigator, co-principal investigator, and any other person at the University of Northern Iowa who is responsible for the design, conduct, or reporting of the research or educational activities funded or proposed for funding. A significant financial interest includes the aggregate interest for the investigator, the investigator's spouse, and dependent children.

Investigators are required to update these financial disclosures during the time in which the proposal is pending and during the period of an award, on an annual basis or as new reportable significant financial interests are obtained.

IV. EXEMPTED FROM DISCLOSURE

Investigators need not disclose:

  1. salary, royalties, or other remuneration from the University of Northern Iowa;

  2. ownership interest in a business enterprise which is an applicant under Phase One of the Small Business Innovation Research or Small Business Technology Transfer programs,

  3. income from lectures or teaching engagements sponsored by public or non-profit entities;

  4. income from service on advisory committees or review panels for public or non-profit entities,

  5. equity interests in business enterprises or entities if the value of such interests is both under $10,000 and less than five percent of the enterprise or entity (when aggregated for the investigator, the investigator's spouse and dependent children); and

  6. salary, royalties or other payments that when aggregated for the investigator and the investigator's spouse and dependent children over the next twelve months, are not expected to exceed $10,000.

V. ASSESSMENT OF POTENTIAL CONFLICTS

A faculty or staff member's consulting relationship with, equity interest in, or a management role within a non-university entity does not necessarily constitute a conflict of interest. A potential conflict may arise, however, when such relationships interfere or compete with one another or with an employee's relationship to the university. Because of the variety of possible combinations and complexities, it is not feasible to describe all potentially conflicting situations. Therefore, the following are to be viewed only as examples of relationships that may require disclosure.

Consulting Activity. A potential for conflict arises when an individual seeks or is awarded a grant or contract for sponsored research through the same entity for which paid consulting is being or has been done. Similarly, if one person is serving as a consultant for two or more clients who are themselves in competing or conflicting relationships, then the potential for a conflict of interest does exist.

Equity Interest. As with consulting, the existence of an equity interest does not alone constitute a conflict of interest. But if an employee with such an interest is asked to consult for or is provided research funding from that company or one of its competitors, then the potential for a conflict of interest does exist.

Management Role. If the management role is directly related to research, marketing, or other activities either for the university or for a competing company, then the potential for a conflict of interest does exist.

Multiple Interests or Roles. An individual faculty or staff member may simultaneously become involved in consulting relationships, have equity holdings, and serve as an officer in one or more companies. Each of these relationships may well be independent of all the others and no conflict among them may exist. The independence or interdependence of such relationships may be difficult to assess, however, unless the individual fully discloses the nature and extent of the relationships.

VI. DISCLOSURE AND CONFLICT OF INTEREST PLAN

All parties participating in relationships involving university employees and non-university entities should be fully aware of the nature of those relationships if a potential for conflict exists. It is the responsibility of the individual who has entered into potentially conflicting relationships to file the University's Financial Disclosure Form with his or her department head or immediate supervisor in order to disclose the nature and degree of such relationships.

Investigators on proposals to all external agencies, public and private, should respond to the question on the University's Request for External Funds form as to whether a potential conflict of interest exists. If the investigator indicates on the University's Request for External Funds form that a potential conflict of interest exists, then he or she must complete the Universities Financial Disclosure Form. Plans for resolving conflicts of interest should be reported on the University's form for Conflict of Interest Plan. The grantees may apply for and receive awards but may not spend any funds from the granting agency prior to the resolution of conflicts.

VII. TIMING OF THE DISCLOSURE

Disclosures should be made as early as possible to enable those reviewing them to consider what action, if any, needs to be taken regarding any potential conflicts of interest. At the latest, a disclosure statement must accompany the submission of a contract or grant proposal when it is submitted to a department head for his or her approval

A conflict of interest does not have to be resolved prior to the submission or awarding of a grant or contract, but the conflict of interest must be resolved by the investigator's (s') compliance with all restrictions specified in the University's Conflict of Interest Plan to manage, reduce, or eliminate actual or potential conflicts of interest BEFORE SPENDING ANY FUNDS from the granting agency.

VIII. REVIEW OF DISCLOSURES

The designated official(s) must: Review all financial disclosures; and determine whether a conflict of interest exists and, if so, determine what actions should be taken by the institution to manage, reduce, or eliminate such conflicts of interest. It is expected that most disclosures will be reviewed and acted on at the departmental level. If, however, the department head is unable or unwilling to deal with the actual or potential conflict of interest that a disclosure reveals, then the department head should forward the disclosure to the appropriate college dean. If the college dean is unable or unwilling to deal with the potential conflict of interest that a disclosure reveals, then the college dean should forward the disclosure to the Provost. Disclosure at each of the three levels is described below.

Departmental Level. A department head is responsible for reviewing any disclosures made. If, in his or her opinion no potential or actual conflict of interest exists, further review is unnecessary. Where a potential or actual conflict exists, the department head must decide if it is serious enough to require intervention to satisfactorily manage, reduce, or eliminate the conflict of interest. At this level, the department head is responsible for proposing the conditions and restrictions as well as the plan for handling conflict of interest on the University's form for the Conflict of Interest Plan. A department head may choose to rely on the advice of a departmental ad hoc peer review committee to assist in the evaluation. Information contained in a disclosure statement accompanying a proposal shall remain confidential to the extent allowed by law. If a contract or grant is awarded, however, any relevant disclosures shall be made public and the contracting or granting entity shall be informed. For employees not affiliated with an academic department, the immediate supervisor serves in place of a department head as the reviewer of disclosures.

College Level. If a department head is unable or unwilling to deal with the actual or potential conflicts of interest that a disclosure reveals, then he or she should forward the disclosure to the appropriate college dean for review. As in the case of departmental review, if a dean believes that no conflict of interest exists, further review is unnecessary. Where a potential or actual conflict exists, the dean must decide if it is serious enough to require intervention to satisfactorily manage reduce, or eliminate the conflict of interest. At this level, the dean is responsible for proposing the conditions or restrictions as well as the plan for handling conflict of interest on the University's form for the Conflict of Interest Plan. A dean may choose to rely on the advice of a college-constituted committee in reviewing disclosures. For employees not affiliated with an academic department, the immediate supervisor may forward disclosures to the administrator to whom he or she reports.

University Level. If a dean or other administrator is unable or unwilling to deal with the actual or potential conflicts of interest that a disclosure reveals, then he or she should forward the disclosure to the Provost for review. The Provost may seek advice from a university committee constituted for that purpose to determine whether a conflict of interest exists and is serious enough to require intervention to satisfactorily manage, reduce, or eliminate the conflict of interest. At this level, the Provost is responsible for proposing the conditions and restrictions as well as the plan for handling conflict of interest on the University's form for Conflict of Interest Plan. For employees not affiliated with an academic unit, the vice president to whom their unit ultimately reports rather than the Provost is responsible for review at this level.

Appeal. If a faculty or staff member disagrees with a decision made at the departmental or college level, he or she can request that the disclosure be referred for review to the next higher administrative level as described above.

IX. ENFORCEMENT OF POLICY

As noted above, disclosure is the responsibility of the faculty or staff member who becomes involved in activities that may be in conflict. Failure to disclose those relationships is a serious matter which may, in certain instances, be considered an act of academic misconduct. Consequently, an allegation of a failure to fully disclose a potential conflict of interest should bebrought to the attention of the Vice President and Provost and to the University's Grants and Contracts Officer. The Provost will handle the matter in accordance with the University of Northern Iowa's Policies and Procedures on Uniform Rules of Personal Conduct. Employees who are not faculty members may be subject to the conduct policies applicable to their employment classification.

X. NOTIFICATION OF FUNDING AGENCY

The Grants and Contracts Officer for the University of Northern Iowa will promptly notify the funding agency if the University finds that it is unable to satisfactorily manage, reduce, or eliminate an actual or potential conflict of interest situation within a funded project.

XI. RECORDS

In accord with federal regulations, the University of Northern Iowa will maintain records of all financial disclosures and of all actions taken to resolve actual or potential conflicts of interest until at least three (3) years after the termination or completion of the grant to which they relate, or the resolution of any civil, government, or university action involving those records.

Graduate Council Approved, 9/14/95
President's Cabinet Approved, 9/18/95

UNIVERSITY OF NORTHERN IOWA FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE FORM

NAME________________________________________ DATE____________________

DEPARTMENT__________________________________________________________

The University of Northern Iowa requires investigators on proposals to all external agencies, public and private, to disclose to the University, prior to submittal of the proposal, any significant financial interest (including those of spouse and dependent children) that would reasonably appear to be affected by the project. Please see the University of Northern Iowa's Conflict of Interest policy for the complete statement of policy.

REQUIRED DISCLOSURES

Investigators must disclose to the University of Northern Iowa all significant financial interests:

  1. that would reasonably appear to be affected by the research or educational activities funded or proposed for funding,

  2. in entities whose financial interest would reasonably appear to be affected by such activities.

EXEMPTED FROM DISCLOSURE

Investigators need not disclose:

  1. salary, royalties, or other remuneration from the University of Northern Iowa.

  2. ownership interest in a business enterprise which is an applicant under Phase I of the Small Business Innovation Research or Small Business Technology Transfer programs;

  3. income from lectures or teaching engagements sponsored by public or nonprofit entities;

  4. income from service on advisory committees or review panels for public or nonprofit entities;

  5. equity interests in business enterprises or entities if the value of such interests is both under $10,000 and less than 5% of ownership interest, for any one enterprise or entity when aggregated for the investigator and the investigator's spouse and dependent children.

  6. salary, royalties or other payments that when aggregated for the Investigator and the investigator's spouse and dependent children over the next twelve months, are not to exceed $10,000.

DISCLOSURE

Please describe in the space below the financial interest which might reasonably appear to be affected by funding of the project. Use an additional page if necessary.

Investigators are required to update these financial disclosures during the time in which the proposal is pending and during the period of an award, on an annual basis or as new reportable significant financial interests are obtained.

The above is an accurate and current statement of all my financial interests which might be directly and significantly affected by the proposed project.

I have read and understand the University of Northern Iowa's Conflict of Interest Policy.

Signature_____________________________________Date______________________

CONFLICT OF INTEREST PLAN

EXAMPLES

Conditions or restrictions that might be imposed to manage, reduce, or eliminate actual or potential conflicts of interest include, but are not limited to:

  1. public disclosure of significant financial interests;

  2. monitoring of project by independent reviewers;

  3. modification of the project plan;

  4. disqualification from participation in the portion of the funded project that would be affected by the significant financial interests;

  5. divestiture of significant financial interests; or

  6. severance of relationships that create actual or potential conflicts.

PLAN FOR HANDLING CONFLICT OF INTEREST

Please describe in the space below the plan for handling the conflict of interest.

I approve the above plan for handling the conflict of interest and will comply with any conditions and restrictions imposed by the institution to manage, reduce, or eliminate conflicts of interest.

Principal Investigator(s)________________________________Date_______________

___________________________________________________Date_______________

We approve the above plan for handling the conflict of interest identified by the principal investigator(s).

Department Chair_____________________________________Date_______________

Dean_______________________________________________Date_______________

Division Vice President________________________________Date_______________