PRP 2751 - Conflict of Interest
Conflict of Interest Policy
Bloomsburg University has an obligation, under guidelines issued by several federal agencies (NSF,NIH, etc.) and under policies issued by the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission, to develop a policy to deal with issues of conflict of interest in relationship to research or educational sponsored projects. The purpose of this policy is to protect the credibility and integrity of the university and its researchers and staff members so that public trust in the university's sponsored research activities is ensured. This policy is a supplement to the Code of Conduct established by executive order of the Governor's Office on September 3, 1980 and is designed only to address the issues of grant funding. That Code of Conduct is incorporated into these guidelines by reference. It is understood that in the vast majority of cases there will be no question of conflict of interest and compliance with this policy will be simply routine.
Conflict of interest refers to situations in which financial or personal considerations may compromise, or have the appearance of compromising, a person's judgment or actions. A potential or actual conflict of interest exists when there is a significant financial interest that could affect the design, conduct, or reporting of the research or educational activity funded or proposed for funding by a federal agency, particularly if those interests or commitments are not disclosed.
The State Ethics Commission and the Federal guidelines are similar but not identical and the differences are not easily resolved. Therefore, there are separate guidelines for federal and nonfederal funding.
Requirements for Federal Funding
Investigator means the principal investigator/project director, co-principal investigators, and any other person at the institution who is responsible for the design, conduct, or reporting of research or educational activities funded, or proposed for funding, by an external sponsor. In this context the term "Investigator" includes the investigator's spouse and dependent children. The term investigator does not normally include undergraduate students and includes graduate students only when they are an integral part of the research team.
Significant Financial interest means anything of monetary value, including, but not limited to, salary or other payments for service (e.g., consulting fees or honoraria) equity interests (e.g. stocks, stock options, or other ownership interests). The term does not include salaries, lectures, or royalties, or other remuneration from Bloomsburg University; income from seminars, lectures, or teaching engagements sponsored by public nonprofit entities; income from service on advisory committees or review panels for public or nonprofit entities; or financial interests in business enterprises or entities if the value of such interests do not exceed $5,000 (or $250 per annum if salaries, fees, or other continuing payments) or represent less than a 5% ownership interest for any one enterprise or entity when aggregated for the investigator and the investigator's spouse and dependent children.
Federally sponsored projects include all projects with direct federal funding or federal pass through funding which is specifically identified in the grant award or contract.
Intellectual property is any patentable invention, any copyrightable subject matter, or trade secret. It also included publications, compositions, discoveries, works of art, and creations that might normally be developed on a proprietary basis.
Disclosure (Federal Funding)
Before submitting a proposal to any federal funding source the project director, faculty and staff participants and graduate student assistants (if identified) will be informed by the Grants Office of the Conflict of Interest Policy and will be required to complete the Significant Financial Interest Disclosure form (attached). Each investigator must disclose all significant financial interests of the investigator (including those of the investigator's spouse and dependent children) (i) that would reasonably appear to be directly and significantly affected by the research or educational activities funded or proposed for funding; or (ii) in entities whose financial interests would reasonably appear to be directly and significantly affected by such activities. Investigators will file the Significant Financial Interest Disclosure form (attachment A) with the Director of Grants who will perform the initial review and maintain records of the disclosure and review. The Significant Financial Interest Disclosure form must be updated annually or as new reportable significant financial interests are obtained while covered grants are pending or funded.
Requirements for nonfederal funding
Investigator means the principal investigator/project director.
Significant financial interests, as defined by the State Ethics Commission, include direct or indirect interest in real estate which was sold or leased to, purchased or leased from, or subject to condemnation proceedings by the Common-wealth, its agencies, or any political subdivisions; loans or debts of over $5,000 (excluding mortgages or loans on primary or secondary residences); direct or indirect sources of income of $1,000 or more; gifts in aggregate of $200 or more; expense reimbursement in excess of $500 (except from Bloomsburg University); Office, Directorship, or employment in any business entity; financial interests of more than 5% of the equity in a business for profit of the assets of the economic interest in indebtedness; or the transfer of any financial interest to a spouse, parent, child, or sibling.
Nonfederal sponsored projects include all projects except those funded by direct federal funding or pass through funding. This includes those funded by Bloomsburg University or the State System of Higher Education and the SSHE Faculty Professional Development Council.
Disclosure (nonfederal funding)
Before submitting a proposal to any nonfederal funding source the project director will be informed by the Grants Office of the Conflict of Interest Policy and will be required to complete the State Significant Financial Interest Disclosure form. Each investigator must disclose all significant financial interests of the investigator (State definition). Investigators will file the State Significant Financial Interest Disclosure form (attachment B) with the Director of Grants who will perform the initial review and maintain records of the disclosure and review. The State Significant Financial Interest Disclosure form must be updated annually or as new reportable significant financial interests are obtained while covered grants are pending or funded.
Conflict Review and Conflict Resolution (both federal and nonfederal funding)
In those cases where a potential conflict of interest is identified the situation will be referred to a Conflict Review Committee (CRC) consisting of the Assistant Vice President for Graduate Studies and Research [as chair], the dean of the affected school and a faculty representative selected by the person under review. The Grants Officer will forward the documents to the CRC within 30 days of submission. The CRC will work to resolve the situation with the project director and faculty and staff participants who have a conflict. Possible methods of resolution will include public disclosure of significant financial interests, monitoring of the research by independent reviewers, modification of the research plan, disqualification from participation in the portion of the research that would be affected by the significant financial interest, divesture of significant financial interests, or severance of relationships that creates actual or potential conflicts. If the CRC determines that imposing conditions or restrictions would be either ineffective or inequitable and that the potential negative impacts that may arise from a significant financial interest are outweighed by interests of scientific progress, technology transfer, or the public health and welfare, then the CRC may allow the research to go forward without imposing conditions or restrictions. If the CRC is unable to satisfactorily manage an actual or potential conflict of interest the Assistant Vice President for Graduate Studies and Research will inform the funding agency.
Violations of the conflict of interest policy may be failure to file the appropriate Significant Financial Interest Disclosure form and by failure to disclose required information on an otherwise properly filed Significant Financial Interest Disclosure form. In cases where principle investigators/project director or co-principle investigators/co-project directors fail to file the Significant Financial Interest Disclosure form, proposals will not be forwarded to the funding agency by the university. In cases where pertinent information is not disclosed on the Significant Financial Interest Disclosure form a Conflict Review Committee will assess the situation and recommend sanctions, where appropriate, to the President. The Assistant Vice President for Graduate Studies and Research will notify the funding agency, within 60 days of discovery, of conflicts and the steps taken to rectify the situation.
Maintenance of Records
Permanent records on each award will be maintained in the Grants Office for at least three years beyond the grant or until resolution of any agency action.