3.02 – Principles, Definitions and Examples relating to Conflict of Interest/Commitment

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Scope: NMSU System

Source: ARP Chapter 3 | Ethics, Equity and Equal Opportunity

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PART 1: PRINCIPLES


A. Duty to Recognize and Resolve Conflicts

Both individual members of the university and entities controlled by or affiliated with the university must recognize and resolve conflicts of interest and/or commitment.  Such conflicts may compromise or have the appearance of compromising the integrity of university-related activities and have unforeseen effects on those activities.  Even if there is no perceptible effect on the activity, any apparent inability of the university to avoid and/or resolve conflicts of interest invites outside criticism and supervision.  Such supervision could result in the loss of the university’s ability to decide its own direction.  Conflicts of interest may be primarily financial or may involve the use of one’s position and powers for non-monetary self-interest.  Such conflicts may be personal or relate primarily to the institution or its constituent organizations or involve an individual whose behavior is inextricably linked with her or his official position, such as an upper-level administrator or a member of the Board of Regents.  In any of these situations, the general principles remain the same; 1) disclose always, 2) manage when possible; and 3) prohibit when necessary and where management is not possible.

1. Disclose Always

It is vitally important that individuals provide a clear picture of their activities and complete forms accurately and in a factually correct manner so that potential or actual conflicts of interest can be identified.  Similarly, if situations change, disclosure needs to be made within 15 working days (see ARP 3.03).  The university is under no obligation to manage, as opposed to prohibit, a conflict of interest disclosed by someone other than the individuals primarily involved.

2. Manage when possible

The vast majority of conflicts can and are managed through removing at least one of the parties from the conflict situation.  For example, an individual might recuse him or herself from the review process on a proposal, have another individual become principal investigator or abstain from participating in a particular promotion or tenure situation.  The preference of the institution will be to provide management solutions to a conflict of interest that will remove or isolate the conflict.  However, such management is not possible when disclosure is not made.

3. Prohibit when necessary and where management is not possible

In some few cases, it will not be possible to manage a conflict and the individual or organization will have to withdraw from the activity.  In some cases, university policy or rules and/or state or federal law allows no solution other than prohibition.  For example, no member of the Board of Regents may act as a vendor of goods or services to the university (Board of Regents Bylaws and Section 21-1-35, NMSA 1978).

 

PART 2:  DEFINITIONS AND ILLUSTRATIONS


The definitions and examples listed below are intended to aid university employees and appropriate review bodies in identifying conflicts of interest.  Identifying conflict situations and documenting steps taken to manage these conflicts serve to protect the employees and the institution, as well as ensure that the university will remain eligible for government sponsored research.

A. Conflicts of Commitment

Full-time faculty and staff of New Mexico State University owe their primary professional allegiance and their primary commitment of time and intellectual efforts to the education, research and service programs of NMSU.  Conflicts of commitment occur whenever the time devoted to external activities adversely affects a faculty or staff member’s capacity to undertake NMSU responsibilities, including maintaining appropriate time and accessibility as defined by the requirements of the job.

1. Examples of conflicts of commitment may include but are not limited to

  1. Maintaining full-time paid employment at another institution/organization that interferes with work performance and/or attendance. (See ARP 6.90 – Outside Employment or Activities)
  2. Excessive (not more than one day per week, on average) private consulting or advisory committee service, even if it is in the public interest or pro bono.
  3. Taking on a significant management role in a non-NMSU entity as part of consulting activities.
  4. Holding an elective political office.

2. Examples of permitted activities may include but are not limited to

  1. Faculty consulting for private companies not in excess of one day per week during that portion of the year when drawing an academic or summer salary (See ARP 6.92 Faculty Consulting and ARP 6.91 Staff Consulting).
  2. Serving on advisory committees of public or private concerns for the benefit of the university, even if an honorarium is paid for such activities, as long as it does not interfere with work performance and attendance.
  3. Acting as an editor or reviewer for a professional society journal.
  4. Preparing chapters, textbooks or monographs related to teaching, research or service activities, even if paid royalties as an author or editor.
  5. Occasional lectures, colloquia or seminars to disseminate results of university -related teaching, research or service activities.
  6. Holding an office in a professional society.

B. Conflicts of Interest

Conflicts of interest occur when there is a competition between a member of the university community’s private interests and the member’s professional obligations to the university such that an independent observer might reasonably question whether the member’s professional actions or decisions are determined by any considerations other than the interests of the university.

1. Examples of conflicts of interest may include but are not limited to

  1. The presence of a real or apparent incentive for the faculty or staff member to decide an issue in such a way as to have the opportunity for a financial interest in the result.
  2. A faculty or staff member having a significant financial interest in a concern that is in direct competition with the interests of NMSU.
  3. Procuring goods or services for NMSU from a concern in which an NMSU regent, administrator, faculty or staff member or member of their family has a significant financial interest.
  4. Using NMSU resources or staff for non-NMSU projects or granting external entities access to the same, in more than an incidental way, unless permission has been given and the activity benefits the university.
  5. Reviewing proposals or bids from family members, or those with whom the faculty or staff member has a close, professional relationship, or from an entity in which the faculty or staff member has a significant financial or management interest.

2. Examples of permitted activities may include but are not limited to

  1. Serving as principal investigator or co-investigator on a multi-institutional project where NMSU is a participating member.
  2. Permitting access to NMSU resources as part of licensing agreements or as part of statutory permitted activities.

C. Investigator

Investigator means the principal investigator or co-investigator and any other person at the university who is responsible for the design, conduct or reporting of a sponsored activity which has been funded or proposed for funding.  For purposes of this Rule and the disclosure requirements set forth herein, the term “investigator” includes the investigator’s family members.

D. Member of the University Community

Regents, students, employees and others affiliated with, or acting as agent of, the university.

E. Relationship

For purposes of this Rule, the term “relationships” shall mean and include the following

  1. Family, as defined by NMSU, e., legal spouse, domestic partner, parent (including in-laws, adoptive, step or surrogate), child, brother (including half , step and in-law), sister (including half, step and in-law), grandparent, grandchild, legal guardian. The term “family” shall also include the legal spouses of any of the individuals named above.
  2. Close personal friends;
  3. Business partners and corporate professional associates.

F. Significant Financial Interest

Significant financial interest means anything of monetary value owned or payable to a faculty or staff member, including but not limited to

  1. Salary, royalties, commissions, consulting fees or honoraria and/or any other form of compensation for services which is
    1. Directly or indirectly paid or payable to the faculty or staff member by an entity other than the university or an affiliate or instrumentality of the university; and
    2. In excess of $10,000 per year when aggregated for the faculty or staff member and his or her family members.
  2. Equity interests such as stocks and stock options and other ownership interests which:
    1. Exceed $10,000 in value or represent more than five percent ownership interest in any single entity, when aggregated for the faculty or staff member and his or her family members; and
    2. Do not comprise widely held, publicly available, diversified investment funds over which the faculty or staff member does not and has no ability to exercise control; and
    3. Are not held in a blind trust where the faculty or staff member has no knowledge of trust assets.
  3. Intellectual property rights, such as patents and copyrights and royalties from those rights.
  4. Student stipends, scholarships, fellowships, work/study grant monies and/or any other form of financial aid paid or payable by an entity other than the university to a faculty or staff member or a member of his or her family.
  5. Gifts or donations of goods or services to a faculty or staff member or a member of his or her family; provided, however, that gifts of a nominal value ($100.00 or less aggregated in a year) do not comprise a significant financial interest.

G. Sponsored Activity

A sponsored activity is a research, training, service or other type of project with identifiable objectives and/or deliverables for which external funding, material support or other compensation, in the form of a grant, gift, contract, cooperative agreement or other formal arrangement, is being requested or has been received.