3.11 – Conflicts of Interest/Commitment in Sponsored Activities

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Scope: NMSU System

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

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Last Updated: Not Available

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Actual or perceived conflicts of interest or commitment that arise from Sponsored Activities are of special concern because they almost always involve or implicate entities outside of the university community (and thus are more prone to public scrutiny), are frequently governed not only by university policies but also by governmental conflict-of-interest regulations and are subject to special disclosure requirements administered by the vice president for research.  The principles, definitions and policy or rule statements set forth in RPM 3.00 – Conflict of Interest – Ethical Conduct and ARP 3.02 – Principles, Definitions and Examples relating to Conflicts of Interest/Commitment apply also to this rule, ARP 3.11 – Conflicts of Interest and Commitment in Sponsored Activities. Specific guidance on conflicts of interest in sponsored activities is set forth below.

 

PART 1: CONFLICTS THAT ARISE FROM FINANCIAL INTERESTS


Actual or perceived conflicts of interest or commitment in sponsored activities generally arise when an investigator or family member has a significant financial interest in, or a consulting arrangement with, a private business concern or other organization that is or may be affected by the sponsored activity.  Some examples of this kind of conflict situation include, but are not limited to:

  1. Engaging for sponsored research a business firm in which the investigator or family member involved in the research project has a significant financial interest.
  2. Purchasing major equipment, instruments, materials or other items for sponsored research from a private firm in which the investigator involved in the research has a significant financial interest.
  3. Engaging a private consulting firm in connection with sponsored research where the investigator involved in such research has a consulting arrangement with or significant financial interest in a competing consulting firm.
  4. Acceptance by an investigator involved in a sponsored research project of gratuities or special favors from a firm or other organization with which the university does business in connection with the sponsored research.
  5. Utilization of privileged information acquired by an investigator in connection with sponsored research for personal gain, or to economically benefit a business concern in which the investigator or family member has a significant financial interest.
  6. Sponsorship of research by a business firm in which an investigator involved in the research has a significant financial interest.
  7. In the absence of disclosure and express sponsor approval, employment of, or an offer of employment to, a family member of an investigator involved in sponsored research by either the sponsor of, or an organization engaged in, the research project.
  8. Receipt by a family member of an investigator involved in a sponsored activity of a scholarship, fellowship, work/study benefit, or other financial aid, which is funded by or through the sponsored activity.

 

PART 2: CONFLICTS THAT ARISE FROM PERSONAL INTERESTS


An actual or perceived conflict of interest or commitment may also arise from situations that may have a significant impact on an investigator involved in sponsored research, even though the situation does not involve a significant financial interest.  These non-financial conflict situations frequently involve personal interests or relationships that are or may be affected by sponsored activities.  Some examples are:

  1. An investigator’s involvement in a sponsored activity where the investigator or a family member of the investigator acts as a non-paid advisor to, or board member of, the sponsoring entity.
  2. An investigator’s involvement in a sponsored activity in which a family member is engaged as a human subject, student researcher or other non-paid participant.
  3. An investigator’s involvement in a sponsored activity that includes testing and validation of new technology developed by a family member of the investigator.

 

PART 3: OTHER CONFLICT SITUATIONS


It is important to realize that any number of other kinds of conflict situations can arise in the context of sponsored projects, some of which may be undeterminable at the outset of the project.  Investigators involved in sponsored activities must be cognizant of the need to monitor project developments in order to identify potential or perceived conflict situations as they arise and to disclose them or facilitate their disclosure as soon as possible.  Examples of other kinds of conflict situations might include:

  1. An investigator’s involvement in a sponsored research project becomes so extensive during the course of the project that other obligations to the university are neglected, thus creating a conflict of commitment.
  2. An investigator’s responsibility for multi-disciplinary sponsored research project gives rise to nepotism issues when a family member employed in a different university department falls under the investigator’s supervisory authority in the context of the project and no disclosure of and express sponsor approval for such arrangement is in place.
  3. An investigator’s loyalty to a family member (See ARP 3.02 Part 2, Section E Relationships), close personal friend or a professional associate employed elsewhere results in sponsored research being conducted elsewhere which could and ordinarily would be conducted within the university, to the disadvantage of the university and its legitimate interests.

 

PART 4: GOVERNMENTAL REGULATIONS PERTAINING TO CONFLICTS


Any research or other project that is sponsored or funded by a governmental agency is likely to be subject to agency regulations or guidelines covering conflicts of interest as well as university policies.

  1. The federal Office of Management and Budget has promulgated rules, applicable to all federally funded grants and agreements with institutions of higher education, which define conflicts of interest and the financial thresholds applicable to them and which require grant recipients to maintain written standards of conduct governing real or apparent conflicts of interest. These rules are found in OMB Circular No. A-110, Sec. 42.  Most federal departments and independent agencies have formally adopted these rules and codified them in various sections of the Code of Federal Regulations.  A few agencies have adopted supplementary conflict of interest guidelines applicable to their own grant administration procedures.
  2. Two agencies, the National Science Foundation and the Public Health Service, have established specific financial disclosure requirements and disclosure review and conflict of interest management procedures applicable to grants from those agencies. The guidelines and requirements set forth in this rule ARP 3.11 – Conflicts of Interest and Commitment in Sponsored Activities are intended to implement and comply with these federal conflict of interest rules, so that compliance with this university Rule will generally assure compliance with governmental requirements.
  3. Investigators are, however, urged to familiarize themselves with the conflict of interest rules adopted by agencies sponsoring their research activities.

 

PART 5: DUTY TO DISCLOSE ACTUAL/POTENTIAL CONFLICTS; PROCEDURES


  1. Each person engaged in an area of sponsored research and covered by this Rule is responsible for determining whether any actual, potential or apparent conflict of interest or commitment exists.
  2. The principal investigator of each specific sponsored activity, in consultation with all other participants in the activity, is responsible for determining whether any possible conflicts exist with respect to such activity and for so indicating on the New Mexico State University Proposal Award Form submitted to the Office of the Vice President for Research at the time approval for such activity is sought.
  3. If any possible conflicts are identified, the person or persons having the conflicts should attempt to resolve them in advance of submitting the activity proposal for review and approval, but in any event must concurrently disclose them for review by the Conflict of Interest Committee during the pre-award process.
  4. Disclosure shall be made by submitting the individual’s current annual Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form with the approval documentation provided to the Office of the Vice President for Research.
  5. If a new conflict of interest or commitment arises during the course of sponsored work, the person having such conflict must submit an updated disclosure form.
  6. The Office of the Vice President for Research shall furnish the forms disclosing possible conflicts to the Committee on Conflicts of Interest in Sponsored Activities.