PAT Council Reviews Conflict Of Interest and Commitment Policy

PAT Council Reviews Conflict Of Interest and Commitment Policy

Saturday, August 10, 2013

At its August meeting, the PAT Council reviewed a draft of a conflict of interest and commitment policy. Feedback still being gathered and will be forwarded to Jan Nisbet, senior vice provost for research.

The unedited draft appears below.

UNH policy on Conflict of Interest and Commitment[1]

7/15/13 Draft

1. Preamble

1.1 University of New Hampshire (UNH) faculty, extension educators, and staff are encouraged to participate in external activities as a means of improving not only their own competence and prestige, but the prestige of UNH as well.  These activities also provide external organizations, institutions, corporations, and industries with expertise and resources that might not otherwise be available to them.

1.2 While engaging in these activities, faculty, extension educators, and staff have an obligation to avoid ethical, legal, financial, and other conflicts of interest and commitment to ensure that their outside activities and interests do not conflict with their primary employment responsibilities at UNH and that they do not misuse UNH resources. 

1.3  This policy is intended to establish guidelines for UNH faculty, extension educators, and staff for recognizing and managing conflicts of interest and commitment, and whenever possible, to prevent even the appearance of a conflict.  Financial conflicts of interest in research are addressed by the UNH policy on Financial Conflicts of Interest in Research (UNH.VIII.E) [2]

2. Definitions

2.1 Conflict of Commitment: When time or effort devoted to external activities by faculty, extension educators, or staff interferes with fulfillment of their assigned UNH responsibilities.

2.2 Conflict of Interest: When professional actions or decisions are determined by personal considerations, financial or otherwise.  It also includes unauthorized use or misuse of UNH resources in the course of an external activity.

2.3 External Activity: Involvement by an employee with any person, trust, organization, enterprise, government agency, or other entity not a part of UNH.  This definition of external activity does not include activities to which faculty, extension educators, or staff have been assigned by UNH, such as appointment to an external board or committee or license maintenance requirements.

2.4 UNH Resources: These include, but are not limited to: facilities, personnel (including students and postdoctoral scholars), equipment, supplies, letterhead, name, services, information, and information technology including the UNH network.

2.5 UNH Responsibilities: Responsibilities of faculty, extension educators, and staff to perform UNH activities as defined by UNH management, contract, or collective bargaining agreement. 

3.  Statements of the Policy

3.1 UNH faculty, extension educators, and staff must conduct their responsibilities in accordance with ethical and legal standards. 

3.2 UNH faculty, extension educators, and staff shall commit their time and effort to fulfilling responsibilities described in their appointment letter/position description during the time that UNH is compensating them for such duties, and shall use UNH resources only in the interest of UNH. 

3.3 UNH faculty, extension educators, and staff must be sensitive to the potential for conflict of interest and commitment when engaging in external activities. The fact that UNH is a public institution must always be kept in mind.

3.4 UNH faculty, extension educators, and staff may not commit UNH resources to external activities without prior approval of the institution.

4.  Roles

4.1 Faculty

4.1.1 The faculty member is responsible for avoiding conflict with his/her UNH obligations and UNH and USNH policies.

4.1.2 Uncompensated external activities.  It is understood that faculty regularly engage in normally unpaid activities such as holding office in a scholarly or professional organization or editorial office, performing duties for a learned journal, writing books or articles, attending professional meetings, colloquia, symposia, site visits, and similar gatherings, and the ad hoc refereeing of manuscripts. These scholarly activities advance the mission of UNH by facilitating the development and dissemination of knowledge. All such activities should meet the criteria of balance, appropriateness, and the avoidance of conflict of interest and commitment.

4.1.3 Compensated external activities. Any full-time faculty member may engage in such compensated external activities, and is encouraged to do so, to the extent that the activities involve the faculty member’s professional expertise, further the status of his or her profession, and contribute to his or her own professional competence. All such activities should meet the criteria of balance, appropriateness, and the avoidance of conflict of interest and commitment.

4.1.4 The activities should sustain or improve the faculty member’s professional prestige.

4.1.5 The activities should be within the professional competence of the faculty member.

4.1.6 On average, the total commitment to the activities must not exceed a time equivalent of one day during each five-day academic week during the appointment period unless specifically authorized by 4.1.7.

4.1.7 If such activities are expected to require more time in a given situation, arrangements must be made in advance with the department chairperson and/or dean.

4.1.8 The academic administrator of the college, through the chairperson of the faculty member's department, must be informed of the activities. Agreement should be reached between the chairperson and faculty member that the activities satisfy (4.1.6 and 4.1.7 above). When required, the confidentiality of a client will be honored.

4.1.9 Entrepreneurial activities. Some faculty are involved with outside entities, including spin-off companies, in which they have a financial interest, such as through salary, consulting fees, honoraria, equity, or intellectual property[3].  In such situations, faculty must:

4.1.9.1 Keep the external activities separate and distinct from their UNH responsibilities.

4.1.9.2 Avoid direct academic oversight of UNH students or UNH postdoctoral scholars hired to work in the outside entity. 

4.1.9.3 Only use UNH resources for the benefit of the outside entity when that use is covered by a formal, written agreement.

4.10 External activities of part-time faculty and lecturers. At the time of and during employment at UNH, part-time faculty must not engage in activities that interfere with their UNH responsibilities, conflict with either UNH or USNH policies, abuse the association with UNH for personal financial gain, or bring discredit on UNH. 

4.2 Cooperative Extension

4.2.1 The nature of Cooperative Extension work requires considerable direct public contact and Cooperative Extension employees are generally viewed as one of the primary educational outreach components of the institution. Based on this role, it is critical that Cooperative Extension employees be particularly sensitive to potential conflicts of interest and commitment.  The Cooperative Extension dean and director is responsible for administering policy in this area.

4.2.2 Consulting. Cooperative Extension employees should not engage in contract services or consulting activities where personal gain is substituted for normal Cooperative Extension obligations consistent with his/her job description. In addition to UNH consulting policies, Extension employees must abide by the following guidelines:

4.2.2.1 Cooperative Extension employees are to obtain advance approval of the Dean and Director or his/her designees for consulting activities.

4.2.2.2 Consulting in the areas of an employee's job responsibility is not permitted within the state.

4.2.2.3  Consulting should be allowed to occur within the state if it is not part of the employee's UNH responsibilities, and is not normally provided through UNH Cooperative Extension or other UNH component.

4.2.2.4 Each Cooperative Extension employee must ensure that consulting is done by him/herself as a private citizen and not as a Cooperative Extension employee. This includes avoidance of the use of his/her official position in media solicitations for commercial or group activities, such as overseas tours, etc.

4.2.2.5 UNH’s name, facilities, materials, supplies, etc. cannot be used without prearranged approval of the appropriate department chairperson, dean, or director, and arranging for payment of the total cost for such use. Such prior approval is not necessary, however, when the facilities, supplies, materials, equipment, and services are generally available to University System faculty and staff members upon the payment of an established fee.

4.2.2.6 Each Cooperative Extension employee must ensure that the consulting is done on his/her own time and accomplished without interference with assigned duties.

4.2.2.7 UNH faculty who have a joint appointment with Cooperative Extension may be able to consult (for a fee) within the state as long as the consulting activity is not in conflict with the faculty member's Extension responsibilities.

4.2.3 Review (Appeal) Process. In the event a Cooperative Extension employee disagrees with the Cooperative Extension Administration decision, the employee may request the decision be reviewed by a board of peers which should include Cooperative Extension employees who are similarly affected by these guidelines.

4.2.4 Private sector support for Cooperative Extension Activities. Each employee must exercise extreme caution and sound professional judgment when identifying any product, service, or program brand name while performing the responsibilities of their Cooperative Extension appointment. As a general rule, promoting or endorsing brands of commercial products is prohibited.

4.2.4.1 Cooperative Extension employees are required to be objective in dealing with topics that are controversial or an issue of public debate, and employees have a responsibility to provide the facts of the issue equally to all interested members of the public regardless of their views concerning the issue. Employees primarily involved with one client group are governed by the same requirements of objectivity as those with varied clientele.

4.2.4.2 Outside monies from the private sector may support the major programs and objectives of Cooperative Extension. An organization's contributions may be recognized, but acknowledgment of acceptance of support is not an endorsement of the contributor's products/services by UNH. Educational foundations may be used as a method of receiving private funds rather than by direct transfer.

4.2.4.3 If it appears there may be a potential conflict regarding private sector support, the employee must seek clarification from the Dean and Director or his/her designee.

4.2.5 Ownership or operation of a personal/private business. Cooperative Extension employees may occasionally own or operate a business. This may or may not present a potential conflict of interest with the employee's Cooperative Extension appointment.  Approval of the Dean and Director or his/her designee is required for all outside employment/business ventures. 

4.2.5.1 The employee must inform the Dean and Director or his/her designee regarding the time commitment to manage, operate, or be involved in such a business. If appreciable time is required away from the employee’s Extension job, suitable arrangements must be made (i.e., time arrangements, business divestiture, or employee termination).  The arrangements must ensure that time spent on such business is during the employee's personal time (i.e., vacation or other approved leave).   The employee's business cannot unfairly compete with similar private businesses.  Approval cannot be granted if the employee has an unfair advantage over private business because of knowledge gained as a result of Cooperative Extension employment.

4.2.5.2 Buying, selling, and/or trading in commodities and related contracts. Employees may become involved in trading commodities or contracts closely related to their Cooperative Extension appointments.   When this occurs, the employee must inform the Dean and Director or his/her designee, who will determine whether the employee's involvement presents unfair competition to others trading such commodities. If the activity appears to conflict with the employee's job time or job assignment, the approval of the Director or his/her designee is required before further activity is undertaken.  Personal investing (stocks and bond, etc.) would not normally fall into this category, unless the activity required too great a time commitment away from work.

4.3 Principal Administrators, Academic Administrators, and PAT Staff

4.3.1 External activities include work for a non-UNH entity for which staff members receive remuneration other than their UNH salary.

4.3.2 Uncompensated external activities.  It is understood that staff regularly engage in normally unpaid activities such as holding office in a scholarly or professional organization or editorial office, performing duties for a learned journal, writing books or articles, attending professional meetings, colloquia, symposia, site visits, and similar gatherings, and the ad hoc refereeing of manuscripts. These scholarly activities further the mission of UNH by facilitating the development and dissemination of knowledge. Within reasonable limits, staff are encouraged to undertake such duties, which are not specifically governed by this policy.  All such activities should meet the criteria of balance, appropriateness, and the avoidance of conflict of interest and commitment.

4.3.3  When these external activities involve a staff member's professional expertise, further and contribute to the development of his/her own profession, and contribute to the development of his/her own professional competence, these activities are permitted.

4.3.4  The staff member's immediate supervisor must be made aware of such activities, and the activities must not interfere with the staff member's UNH obligations and must not involve duplication of payment by UNH for the staff member’s responsibilities. 

4.3.5 If it appears there may be a potential conflict of interest or commitment regarding a proposed external activity, the staff member must seek clarification from his/her supervisor.

4.3.6  If a staff member wishes to engage in outside activity to such an extent that the employee cannot fulfill his/her UNH obligations to the satisfaction of their supervisor, he/she shall request a reduction in his/her percentage of appointment. Such requests will be considered in relation to the demands of the staff member's position. Other alternatives, such as professional development leaves, may also be appropriate.

4.4 Operating Staff

4.4.1 This policy is intended to establish guidelines for external activity by Operating Staff members. Such activity includes:

4.4.1.1 Work for a non-UNH entity for which staff members receive remuneration other than their UNH salary.

4.4.1.2 Normally unpaid activities, such as holding office in a professional organization, attending professional meetings and conferences, or serving as a representative of the institution.

4.4.2 Operating Staff members may carry out such activities to the extent that the activities do not interfere with their primary UNH responsibilities, and do not involve conflicts of interest.

4.4.3  If it appears there may be a potential conflict of interest or commitment regarding a proposed external activity, the Operating Staff member must seek clarification from his/her supervisor.

5.  Use of UNH Resources

5.1  Faculty, extension educators, and staff shall not use UNH facilities, supplies, materials, equipment, or services for external activities, without first obtaining approval of the appropriate department chairperson, dean, or director, and arranging for the payment of the total cost of such use. Such prior approval is not necessary, however, when the facilities, supplies, materials, equipment, and services are generally available to UNH faculty, extension educators, and staff upon the payment of an established fee.

5.2  The UNH name may be used in connection with external activities where necessary to identify the faculty/staff member or extension educator, but may not be used to imply that UNH officially supports, endorses, ensures or guarantees the results of the external activity. When the potential for confusion about official endorsement exists, an appropriate disclaimer should be used, such as "This report was written by ______________________ in his/her private capacity. No official support or endorsement by the University of New Hampshire is intended or should be inferred."

6.  Supply of Goods and Services

6.1 Faculty, extension educators, or staff who would benefit financially from the supplying of goods or services to UNH by any prospective supplier may not participate in the decision process leading to the choice of supplier.

6.2  Faculty, extension educators, or staff who have or who reasonably anticipate having either an ownership interest, a significant executive position in, or a consulting or other remunerative relationship with a prospective supplier may not participate in the recommendation of, drafting of specifications for, or the decision to purchase the goods or services involved.

6.3 Faculty, extension educators, or staff who know that a member of their family (or any person with whom they have a personal or financial relationship) has an ownership interest or a significant executive position in a prospective supplier are also disqualified from participating in the process of purchasing goods and services.

6.4  Faculty, extension educators, or staff whose sole ownership interest in a potential supplier is held by a fiduciary that has the power to acquire or dispose of the interest without consultation with the faculty/  staff member or extension educator are not disqualified from participation in the purchase decision.

6.5 When a faculty/staff member or extension educator is disqualified from participating in a procurement decision, the fact of the disqualification and the reason for it must be reported to those involved in the decision. If necessary, a substitute may take the individual’s place under procedures established by the appropriate administrative official.

7.  Appropriation of Institutional Services or Business Opportunities

7.1 As part of its mission of public education, UNH may become involved in activities that may be competitive in nature. In areas where UNH is providing goods or services that are also available outside UNH, faculty, extension educators, staff, and administrators are prohibited from appropriating business opportunities from UNH.

7.2  Appropriation in this context means: to take or make use of without authority or right and is intended to prohibit the taking, through use of the UNH name, equipment, facilities or supplies, or by action of a faculty/staff member, administrator, or extension educator of those service or business opportunities that ordinarily would have been contracted or supplied by UNH, except in areas of business or service where no specific advantage is gained by virtue of one's employment duties or responsibilities.


[1] This policy is based on the University System of New Hampshire Conflict of Interest policy (USY.V.D.7) (http://www.usnh.edu/olpm/USY/V.Pers/D.7.htm)

[2] For financial conflicts of interest in research, see the UNH policy on Financial Conflicts of Interest in Research at http://www.usnh.edu/olpm/UNH/VIII.Res/E.htm.

[3] For financial conflicts of interest in research, see the UNH policy on Financial Conflicts of Interest in Research at http://www.usnh.edu/olpm/UNH/VIII.Res/E.htm.