University of Houston-Victoria

Research and Sponsored Programs

Conflict of Interest

The federal government requires organizations to apply a financial conflict of interest and disclosure policy to manage federally funded projects. The Conflict of Interest (COI) policy applies to individual(s) applying for or receiving funds to be administered through the University.

A. Purpose

The purpose of the policy is to promote objectivity in research by establishing standards to ensure the integrity of the design, conduct, or reporting of research is not compromised by a conflicting financial interest. By exercising this policy the University will impose appropriate management of actual or potential financial interest. The University has the responsibility to manage, reduce, or eliminate conflict of interest presented by the investigator prior to the expenditures of the award funds. Investigators are required to disclose any significant financial interests that may present potential or actual conflict of interest with a sponsored project: (i) that would reasonably appear to be affected by the research or educational activities funded or proposed for funding; or (ii) in entities whose financial interests would appear to be affected by such activities.

B. Definitions

B.1. Investigator means the Principle Investigator/Principle Director (PI/PD), co-PI/co-PD, and any other person identified on the proposed project who is responsible for the design, conduct or reporting of research or educational activities funded or proposed for funding. The term “investigator” includes the investigator’s spouse and dependent children.

B.2. 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 interest (e.g. stocks, stock options or other ownership interests; and intellectual property rights (e.g., patents, copyrights and royalties from such rights).

B.2.1. Travel reimbursed or sponsored travel in the preceding 12 months, including the purpose of the trip, the identity of the sponsor/organization, the destination, and the duration of the trip.

B.2.2. The value of gifts and source of a single gift that the covered individual received in the preceding twelve months that exceeds $250 in value, or multiple gifts from a single entity that in the aggregate exceed $250 in value, other than gifts from a covered family member.

The term does not include:

  • Salary, royalties or other remuneration from the proposing organization;
  • Any ownership interests in the organization, if the organization is an applicant under the Small Business Innovation Research Program or Small Business Technology Transfer Program;
  • Income from seminars, lectures, or teaching engagements sponsored by public or non-profit entities;
  • Income from service on advisory committees or review panels for public or nonprofit entities;
  • An equity interest that, when aggregated for the investigator and the investigator’s spouse and dependent children, meets both of the following tests: does not exceed $10,000 in value as determined through reference to public prices or other reasonable measures of fair market value, and does not represent more than a 5% ownership interest in any single entity; or
  • Salary, royalties or other payments that, when aggregated for the investigator and the investigator’s spouse or dependent children, are not expected to exceed $10,000 during the prior twelve-month period.

B.3. A Potential Conflict of Interest may exist when an observer reasonably determines that a significant financial interest could directly and significantly affect the design, conduct or reporting or research or educational activities resulting in the individual’s personal gain, financial or otherwise.

The following is a list of common conflicts of interest that are related to sponsored program activity.

  1. The investigator has a financial interest in an entity and the sponsored project proposed to subcontract a portion of the work, or lease property, or to make referral of participants to, or make purchases from the entity.
  2. The Investigator has a financial interest in an entity that is part of a consortium or that will otherwise participate in the sponsored project.
  3. The Investigator alters focus of the research program for the benefits of his/her outside interests.
  4. The investigator uses or released privileged information for personal or third party gains.
  5. The investigator accepts gratuities or special favors in return for influencing the conduct of research.

C. Certificate of Compliance

C.1. On an annual basis, all Investigators involved in sponsored projects must certify to the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects Director their knowledge of and compliance with the financial disclosure policy as outlined herein. The certification form also requires the same information about members of the academic staff member’s immediate family. Investigators must supply this information for confidential review by the University. At minimum, disclosures must include the information found on the sample certification form at the end of this document. At minimum, disclosures must include the following as seen on the Annual Certificate of Compliance form maintained by the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

  • If you currently have internally or externally sponsored research or are you supported by a grant or contract the outcome of which could affect the interests of an enterprise or entity in which you (or members of your immediate family, i.e., spouse or dependent children as defined by the Internal Revenue Service) have employment or consulting arrangements and/or significant financial interest?
  • Do you currently have internally or externally sponsored research or are you supported by a grant or contract where you (or members of your immediate family, i.e., spouse or dependent children as defined by the Internal Revenue Service) have employment or consulting arrangements and/or significant financial interests with the sponsor of the research, a subcontractor to the grant, a vendor, or a research collaborator?
  • Do you currently have gifts of cash or property which are under your control, or which directly support your teaching or research activities from an enterprise or entity in which you (or your immediate family members) have an employment or consulting arrangement and/or significant financial interests?
  • Does the University currently have a technology licensing arrangement with an enterprise or entity for which you, the inventor, (or your immediate family members) have employment or consulting arrangements and/or significant financial interests?

C.2. In addition, Investigators must disclose to the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs Director on an ad hoc basis new situations in which significant financial interests are obtained and which may raise questions of conflict of interest as soon as such situations become known.

C.3. The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs will disseminate the forms annually or in preparation of application submission and the director will review the financial disclosure forms. If a potential conflict of interest exists, the information will be presented to the Dean of the presiding school and Chair of the presiding program to determine whether an actual conflict of interest exists, and determine what conditions or restrictions, if any, should be imposed by the institution to manage, reduce, or eliminate the conflict. An actual or potential conflict of interest exists when the reviewer(s) reasonably determines that a significant financial interest could affect the design, conduct, or reporting of the research or educational activities in question.

C.4. Examples of conditions or restrictions that might be imposed to manage, reduce, or eliminate actual or potential conflicts of interest include:

  • Public disclosure of significant financial interests;
  • Monitoring of research by independent reviewers;
  • Modification of the research plan;
  • Disqualification from participation in that portion of the research that would be affected by the significant financial interests;
  • Divestiture of the significant financial interests; or
  • Severance of relationships that create actual or potential conflicts.

C.5. If the Dean or Chair 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 Dean or Chair may recommend that the research go forward without imposing such conditions or restrictions. Such a recommendation will be forwarded to the Vice President for Academic Affairs/Provost, for his or her approval or disapproval.

C.6. If the investigator desires to appeal the conditions or restrictions supported by the Vice President for Academic Affairs/Provost, he or she may present the appeal to the President who then forms the ad hoc appeals committee. The ad hoc appeals committee is to be comprised of one faculty from each school selected by the dean of that school, one member from Administration & Finance and one nonacademic position appointed by the Provost. The ad hoc appeals committee will make a recommendation to the Provost who has final authority.

In any case, any significant financial interest shall be publicly disclosed to the presiding federal agency.

C.7. Records of all financial disclosures and of all actions taken to resolve actual or potential conflicts of interest will be maintained in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs until at least 3 years beyond the termination or completion of the sponsored project award to which they relate, or the resolution of any government action involving those records.

Failure of any academic staff member to comply with this policy shall constitute grounds for disciplinary action.