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Policy No: 2057
Responsible Office: Academic Affairs
Last Review Date: 04/03/2023
Next Required Review: 04/03/2028
Policy No: 2057
Responsible Office: Academic Affairs
Last Review Date: 04/03/2023
Next Required Review: 04/03/2028

External Professional Activities

1. Purpose

External Professional Activities and relationships between USA faculty and outside entities can make a positive contribution to the University environment by providing avenues to test and exchange information and ideas. This policy outlines the conditions under which faculty may conduct external consulting and professional activities and describes the requirements for approvals and associated disclosures.

2. Applicability

This policy applies to all regular (not temporary) faculty of the University of South Alabama and USA Health. This policy includes department chairs but does not include administrative employees with a faculty appointment.

This policy does not apply to Secondary Appointments/Assignments/Work Projects (see defined terms below). Any conflict of commitment due to such activities will be addressed through the University academic performance review process.

3. Definitions

Business Day: Includes every Monday through Friday during regular business hours, and periods of time on any Saturday, Sunday, or evening when a faculty member is scheduled to work, but does not include any University holiday or day that the faculty member takes a vacation day, sick leave, or paid time off (PTO).

Entity: A company, association, organization, institution, or any other type of entity with a separate legal identity including a for-profit, not-for-profit, or an organization of higher education.  For purposes of reporting financial interests under this policy, it also includes an individual.

External Professional Activities: Activities that draw upon the knowledge, skill, or abilities an employee uses to fulfill his or her Institutional Responsibilities at USA and that are performed for an Entity outside the USA, whether or not for compensation.

Institutional Responsibilities: All activities, duties, and responsibilities performed by an employee in the course of his/her employment or other relationship with USA, as reflected in his/her job description or per request by their supervisor, including but not limited to scholarship, research, research consultation, teaching, professional practice, administration, contracting or procurement responsibilities, or professional public service activities.

Secondary Appointments/Assignments/Work Projects: A secondary (or otherwise additional) appointment or assignment or other work project with another USA organization in which an employee’s time or effort is shared or which is part of an employee’s job expectations is not considered an external activity. In these instances, the organization receiving the services must make appropriate financial arrangements for payment and/or distribution of the portion of the employee’s salary attributable to that appointment, assignment, or other work project.

4. Policy Guidelines

All employees are expected to devote their primary professional loyalty, time, and energy to their position at the USA. Accordingly, external consulting and professional activities must not require such extensive absence as to cause the employee to neglect teaching, research, patient care, or business obligations or become regularly unavailable to students and/or colleagues. External consulting and professional activities should not create a conflict of commitment with the employee’s institutional responsibilities. It is possible to have a conflict of commitment even with an uncompensated activity.

Any external activity that meets all three of the following criteria must be requested in advance by the employee as an External Professional Activity:

  • Requires a time commitment (whether compensated or not);
  • Is not considered part of the employee’s institutional responsibilities;
  • Involves an absence during a business day.

Regardless of the type of External Professional Activities, time away from USA employment is at the discretion of and must be approved by USA management (one's Department Chair, and the Dean). USA management necessarily reserves the right to reschedule work assignments to meet the demands of University employment and to address issues of excess or abuse as conflicts of commitment arise. However, the management of a conflict of commitment shall not include any reduction in an employee's salary and shall not otherwise take into account payments received by an employee for External Professional Activities.

For regular faculty (non temporary), their USA job is expected to be their primary employment commensurate with their appointment percentage. External activities are allowed under the following conditions:

  • They do not interfere with the performance of other institutional responsibilities as an employee;
  • They are compatible with the interests of USA as a public academic institution; and
  • They do not violate state law, policy related to use of USA resources or facilities, and comply with the Alabama Ethics Commission and regulations as applicable.

Faculty will not be required to submit a request for External Professional Activities for any period during which a faculty member is not on a USA appointment (e.g., activities performed during an unpaid leave of absence, activities during the summer for academic year faculty not on contract), or during periods of paid time off (PTO). External Professional Activities will not be permitted during periods of sick leave or family medical leave (FML).

4.1  Consulting

In general, the time allotted to External Professional Activities in lieu of USA obligations should not exceed one day per week during the academic year or 36 days per year. If the faculty member chooses to spread the 36 days per year over the calendar year, the maximum allowable days per month is three days, (no more than one workday per scheduled work-week). If a faculty member chooses full-time employment at the University for the summer semester, the total 36 days for consulting services applies to the calendar year. This consulting allowance does not apply to College of Medicine faculty with Physician Employment Agreements in USA Health. Other College of Medicine faculty are limited to 1 day per month.

For USA 12-month faculty in the University General Division who are required in writing to maintain professional licensure, the maximum allowable days for consulting may not exceed 52 days a calendar year or more than 4 days per contract month. The maximum allowable time spent in such External Professional Activities is at discretion of the College Dean or Division Head and must be approved in advance.

4.2  Use of University Facilities and Resources

Prior approval must be obtained for consulting use of University equipment or facilities, or the employment of University faculty, staff, and students. The inconsequential use of office-based computing equipment and telephone equipment (e.g. the exchange of e-mails or local telephone calls with a consulting client) is permitted without prior approval.

4.3  Intellectual Property

Intellectual property in which the University may have an ownership interest may not be transferred by University employees while engaged in outside consulting. Intellectual property must be disclosed to the University pursuant to the University's Patent and Invention Policy, and Copyright Policy. Clauses in consulting agreements (including, but not limited to, clauses on confidentiality and ownership/transfer of intellectual property) must be consistent with the policy of the University and with University commitments under sponsored research agreements. Accordingly, consulting agreements should contain the company's acknowledgement that to the extent the consulting agreement is inconsistent with any of the University employee's obligations to the University, the employee's obligations to the University shall prevail.

5. Procedures

5.1  Advance Approval

External consulting or professional activities must be approved in advance. External Professional Activities request forms must fully disclose all activities that meet all three conditions cited in the 2nd paragraph of section 4 above and be reviewed/approved by appropriate USA Management (first review by Department Chair, and final review/approval by the Dean) prior to accepting any such activity. It is the faculty member’s responsibility to assess whether the potential for a conflict of commitment exists; when in doubt an External Professional Activities request form should be submitted.

When reviewing disclosures, it should be acknowledged that much faculty work is conducted outside of the traditional business day and often outside of the office (e.g., course preparation, writing and other forms of research/scholarship). It can be difficult, therefore, to monitor whether the time devoted to external activities conflicts with fulfillment of a faculty member's university commitments. Department Chairs should monitor whether a faculty member is meeting his or her expected performance standards when determining whether a conflict of commitment exists.

If the proposed activity includes signing an agreement concerning rights in inventions or materials, the agreement must be reviewed and approved by the Office of Commercialization and Industry Collaboration. When an external activity is disclosed, USA Management will evaluate the disclosure to determine whether a conflict of commitment exists and if any further action is needed.

In the event the faculty member is denied the opportunity to engage in external professional activities by USA Management, the employee may file a grievance in accordance with the faculty grievance policy.

5.2  Additional Reviews

Because external consulting and professional activities can overlap with the conduct of university research, the Conflict of Interest in Research Policy should be followed for identification and management of any potential conflicts of interests in the conduct of research. The Office of Research Compliance and Assurance will review disclosures to determine whether and what type of management may be required to conflicts of interest related to research activities.

5.3  Management Plan

If USA Management determines that engaging in the external activity poses a conflict of commitment, the faculty member’s Department Chair or designee will work with the faculty member to develop a written management plan using a template provided by the Academic Affairs/Vice Provost’s office or the VP for Medical Affairs.

Management plan actions will vary based on the situation and may include:

    • Requiring nothing beyond documentation of disclosure;
    • Arrangements to cover all university responsibilities during his or her absence; and
    • Strategies to eliminate the conflictual elements of the activity and/or prohibition of the activity.

Copies of management plans related to Conflicts of Commitment shall be maintained by the faculty member’s department, with periodic access by the Vice Provost, Internal Audit and the Office of Compliance, as necessary for purposes of monitoring and oversight.

6. Enforcement

All unit Vice Presidents are responsible for overall implementation of this policy. Violations of this policy are grounds for disciplinary action up to, and including, termination of employment.

7. Related Documents

7.1  University Policies

Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment

Conflict of Interest in Research

Foreign Influence: Reporting and Disclosure Requirements

Use of University Research Facilities and Equipment by External Entities 

Patent and Invention


7.2  University Forms

Request for External Professional Activities Form

Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form

7.3  Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Guidance for Determining if a Financial Conflict of Interest is Related to PHS-Funded Project