Types of Conflict
Conflict of Interest
A potential Conflict of Interest (COI) exists whenever personal, professional, commercial, or financial interests or activities outside of the University have the possibility (either in actuality or in appearance) of (1) compromising a USA community member’s judgment; (2) biasing the nature or direction of scholarly research; (3) influencing a faculty or staff member’s decision or behavior with respect to teaching and student affairs, appointments and promotions, uses of University resources, interactions with human subjects, or other matters of interest to the University; or (4) resulting in a personal or family member’s gain or advancement at the expense of the University.
- Assigning a textbook for which you receive royalties as the required book for a course you teach.
- Accepting gifts from a student whom you must evaluate.
- Receiving royalties or other licensing proceeds from intellectual property you invented and are evaluating or further developing as part of your institutional responsibilities.
According to USA policy and the Alabama Ethics Law, faculty may not determine if their own textbooks can be assigned for their classes; the decision must be made by a university textbook committee or administrative officials. If this has happened, it should be reported under the Faculty section of the annual COI Disclosure form.
This scenario may be disclosed on USA’s annual COI Disclosure form (as an additional type of conflict), but is generally not addressed by USA’s conflict of interest policies unless related to sponsored research. USA’s nepotism policy does not apply because the instructor is not a current family member of the mentioned faculty member, and either way the ex-family member does not supervise the instructor. However, the relationship should at least be informally disclosed for transparency purposes, so that action can be taken to avoid the perception of a conflict. Any relationship that can reasonably appear to affect USA duties, such as work-related decisions that might potentially not be made in the best interest of USA, should be disclosed.
This scenario would not need to be disclosed on USA’s annual COI Disclosure form, and is not addressed by USA’s conflict of interest policies unless related to sponsored research. USA’s nepotism policy covers employment only. However, teaching and grading one’s own family member is a scenario that could easily become perceived as favoritism by other students and could be avoided by having the relative take another similar class with a different instructor, if available. When no other class is available, the conflict may be managed with the assistance of the dept chair or college dean, as appropriate.
You should disclose the nature of your relationship, including whether you are paid for your role, the type of role (i.e., consulting, advisory board service, speaking), fiduciary roles (e.g., board of directors), and ownership interests (e.g., stocks, equity, royalties, etc.). You should also disclose the source of funding that was the basis of your presentation. Always err on the side of transparency.
No. Payment or reimbursement of travel expenses to faculty, trainees or other member of the College of Medicine (COM) to merely attend a CME activity would be considered a personal gift and therefore a violation of USA’s gift policy. Consult with the COM’s Office of Continuing Medical Education for guidance.
Yes, but only if the process for awarding financial support for the trainee’s meeting attendance is controlled by the professional association sponsoring the conference, and the conference is being certified for CME/CEU. For CME’s, applicants should assure they meet ACCME Standards for Commercial Support by not allowing CME providers to use commercial support to pay for travel, lodging, honoraria, or personal expenses for non-speaker or non-author participants of a CME activity. Therefore, if the CME certification process is working appropriately, the funds being used to support travel would be from sources other than industry. College of Medicine (COM) applicants should also check with COM’s Office of Continuing Medical Education.
Conflict of Commitment
A potential Conflict of Commitment (COC) exists when a USA community member’s external relationships or activities have the possibility (either in actuality or in appearance) of interfering or competing with the University’s educational, research, or service missions, or with that individual’s ability or willingness to perform the full range of responsibilities associated with his or her position.
- A history professor writes historical fiction novels which consume 40 hours per week of their time, and the impact on their institutional responsibilities is noticeable.
- A music professor performs with a traveling folk music group, which sometimes conflicts with instructional duties.
- A pediatric faculty physician has been selected to serve as Chair of the National Board of Directors for the Girls Scouts of America, a duty which will impinge on the physician’s patient care and instructional responsibilities at USA Health.
Financial Conflict of Interest
Arises when an employee (or family member) in a position to financially benefit from USA business or research decisions is involved in the decision-making. While financial interests should not and, in most cases, do not, compromise intellectual honesty or institutional integrity, under federal law and according to USA policy, they must not have the appearance of compromising the University's values and missions of teaching, research, and public service. Financial Conflicts of Interest are based on tangible conflicts that can be seen and measured and associated with monetary value.
- Negotiating on behalf of the University for the purchase of materials from a company in which you have a financial interest.
- Directly influencing the negotiation of contracts, including research contracts or licensing contracts, between the University and a company in which you have a financial interest.
Conflict of Interest in Research
Occurs when an employee who is conducting research has a financial interest which could cause bias that affects the design, conduct or reporting of his/her research, for instance, a financial interest in a sponsor of the research, or in the manufacturer of a product or device used in the research. If the financial interest could reasonably be perceived to directly and significantly affect the research it must be reported even if its dollar value or percentages is minimal.
- Accepting gifts or gratuities from companies doing business or sponsoring one's research at the University.
- Accepting honoraria over fair market value for lectures on behalf of companies, for instance for a company whose economic or political interests are affected by an investigator's research.
- Performing research for a company in which the investigator has a financial interest.
- Accepting a paid consultancy with a company having an interest in your research.
- Using students to perform services for a company in which you have a financial interest.
- Providing privileged access to information developed with University or independent sponsorship to another entity in which you have a financial interest.
- Providing or receiving financial bonuses from a research sponsor for meeting subject recruitment targets or achieving stated results.
- Holding office or membership on a board or committee of an entity supporting your University research.
- Holding equity interests, including stock options, in an entity which supports your University research.
- Imposition of restrictions on the actions of students or trainees, including disclosure of research findings, at the request of a sponsor or financially interested company.