UNCG's Policy on Conflicts of Interest and Commitment:
What is the purpose of the policy?
The Policy on Conflicts of Interest and Commitment Affecting University Employment at UNCG is designed to gather information from which a determination can be made as to whether or not any of UNCG's faculty or EPA non-faculty staff have certain business or financial interests which may conflict with the mission or business of the University. Additionally, the Policy is designed to comply with the requirements imposed by certain federal funding agencies, in particular NSF, which have said that they will not accept proposals from faculty or institutions not in compliance with those requirements.
What is the history of this policy?
In 1993 The Board of Governors mandated that each University adopt a policy in conformity with the Board of Governors' Policy on Conflicts of Commitment and Interest Affecting University Employment. A committee was created by the UNCG Faculty Senate to work with University Counsel on a draft policy for UNCG. That draft was approved by the Senate, and then by the Board of Trustees in November of 1993. However, by directive of the Board of Governors, the policy was not implemented. The Board was waiting to see the long anticipated conflict of interest regulations from NSF and NIH. Those regulations did not become final until spring, 1995. As a result of those regulations, adjustments were required to be made to UNCG's policy, particularly with respect to the definition of a "significant financial interest." The required changes were made and were approved by the Faculty Senate in January 1996 and by the Board of Trustees in February 1996.
How often are reports required?
The disclosure form must be submitted on July 1, of each year and any time in between that an actual or potential conflict of interest arises.
Where will the forms be filed?
With your department or unit head.
What must be reported?
The disclosure form is constructed in a questionnaire format. If you answer yes to any of the questions, then additional information about the nature of your activity or financial interest must be given in the appropriate appendix to the disclosure form.
How are conflicts of interest classified?
The policy classifies conflicts of interest into three categories. Category I includes activities that are routinely allowable and do not need to be reported, Category II includes activities that may be allowable following disclosure and, where necessary, the implementation of monitoring procedures, and Category III includes activities that are presumptively not allowable. Reference should be made to the text of the policy for specific descriptions of these various categories. Salary, royalties, or other remuneration from UNCG.
Must all financial interests be reported?
No, only those interests that are defined as "significant financial interests" need to be reported. 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 from such rights). The term does not include:
- Income from seminars, lectures, or teaching engagements sponsored by public or nonprofit entities;
- Income from service on advisory committees or review panels for public nonprofit entities;
- An equity interest that when aggregated for the employee and the employee's immediate family or household, meets both of the following tests; (a) Does not exceed $10,000 in value as determined through reference to public prices or other reasonable measures of fair market value, and (b) does not represent more than a five percent ownership interest in any single entity; or
- Salary, royalties or other payments, including consulting fees, that when aggregated for the employee and the employee's immediate family or household over the next twelve months, are not expected to exceed $10,000.
Do I have to report financial interests that fall within the definition of "significant financial interests" even if they have no connection with the University?
No, as you will see from the disclosure form, only certain "significant financial interests" must be reported. Generally, reportable interests are those that may lead to a conflict with University or granting agency interests. Mutual funds will usually not fall within this category and, therefore, need not be reported.
Can faculty use textbooks they authored in their courses?
If students are required to purchase the textbook or related instructional materials authored or compiled by the faculty member (or his/her immediate family) and, the faculty or family member receives royalties or other compensation from the sale of the materials, a potential (Category II) conflict exists and must be reported. However, the use of the textbook or instructional materials may be authorized by the faculty member's department head with or without specified conditions, e.g. third party review of the materials.
What should I do if I am planning an external activity (such as consulting) or to acquire a significant financial interest which may give rise to a conflict of interest, even though a conflict does not currently exist?
If you have reason to believe that a conflict of interest as defined in the Policy may arise within the next twelve months, you should report that fact as soon as you become aware of it.
What happens to the disclosure form after it is submitted to the department or unit head?
The department or unit head reviews it to determine if any potential Category II or III conflicts exist. If a Category II conflict is found, the department or unit head may grant a waiver with or without specified conditions. If a Category III conflict is found, the employee must take immediate steps to eliminate the conflict or the employee may apply for a waiver. The department or unit head may recommend that the waiver be granted, however, the waiver must be approved by the next highest administrator.
What sort of conditions may be imposed in order to receive a waiver?
There are many options and this is a matter that should be negotiated with the employee. Options include monitoring through additional reporting, modification of the research plan, public disclosure of the financial interest (only with the employee's consent), etc.
What can I do if my application for a waiver is rejected or if I disagree with the finding of a conflict?
The Policy gives you a right to appeal the denial in accordance with the faculty or EPA non-faculty grievance process (whichever applies to you.)
What happens to my disclosure forms after they are reviewed?
Upon completion of the review process a copy will be maintained by your department or unit head and the original will be sent to the Office of the Provost for filing in your official personnel file.
Are my disclosure forms public information?
No. They become part of your personnel record and are protected by the provisions of the North Carolina State Personnel Records Act. Information from your disclosure form may be shared with University officials (particularly the Director of Research Services), who have a need to know the information in order to carry out their official duties.
I have other questions which have not been answered in these FAQs.
Please contact the University Counsel's office at 334-3067 or University_Counsel@uncg.edu.