Policy: Policy 3-1-1: Conflict of Interest Pertaining to Sponsored Projects Date Adopted: Feb 01, 1996
Department: Academic & Student Affairs Contact: Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs
Statement: This policy sets forth procedures and guidelines that are to be followed in resolving actual and potential conflicts of interest and commitment pertaining to sponsored projects. This policy applies to all sponsored projects. The teaching, research, and service mission of WNC must be conducted in an objective manner, free from undue influence arising from private or other special interests. The purpose of this policy is to establish guidelines for recognizing, disclosing, and managing conflicts of interest.


Section 1: General Information

  1. WNC and its employees often benefit from the employees participation in both public and private outside activities. WNC has no interest in setting forth detailed rules that may interfere with the employees legitimate outside interests. Examples of activities which are clearly permissible include:
    1. Acceptance of royalties for published works or of honoraria for papers and lectures;
    2. Payments as a consultant to an outside entity, provided that the time commitment does not exceed WNC policy and that the arrangement does not alter the faculty members commitments to WNC and;
    3. Service on boards and committees of outside entities that does not distract from the faculty members obligation to WNC.
  2. Employees, in turn, must also ensure that their outside obligations, financial interests, and activities do not conflict or interfere with their commitment to WNC. This obligation pertains to both full-time and part-time employees.
  3. This policy has been developed in response to specific federal agency requirements and is applicable to every investigator participating in sponsored project funding.

Section 2: Definitions

  1. The definitions and examples listed below are intended to aid WNCs employees and appropriate review bodies in identifying conflicts of interest. Identifying conflict situations and documenting steps taken to manage these conflicts serves to protect the employee and the institution, as well as assures that WNC will remain eligible for Governmental-sponsored research.
    1. Sponsored Project A research, training, service, or other type of project with identifiable objectives and/or deliverables for which external funding either is being requested or has been received.
    2. Investigator The principal investigator and any other person at WNC who is responsible for the design, conduct, or reporting of research funded, or proposed for funding. For purposes of this disclosure requirement, the term investigator includes the investigators spouse and/or dependent children.
    3. Financial Interest 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).
    4. Significant Financial Interest The financial interest in business enterprises or entities where the value of such interest exceeds ten thousand dollars per anum in salary, fees, or other continuing payments or represents more than 5% ownership interest for any one enterprise or entity relevant to sponsored project activities when aggregated for the investigator and the investigators spouse and dependent
    5. Conflict of Interest A conflict of interest encompasses any situation in which an employee of WNC uses, or is in a position to use, his or her influence and authority within WNC to advance his or her own personal or financial interest, or the personal or financial interests of his or her immediate family. Examples of these types of conflicts may include, but are not limited to, the following:
      1. Personal gain or unauthorized use of privileged information acquired in connection with the employees sponsored activities;
      2. Negotiations or influence upon the negotiation of an employees sponsored project agreement between WNC and organizations with which the employee has a consulting or other significant relationship;
      3. Acceptance of gratuities or special favors from agencies or organizations with which WNC does or may conduct business;
      4. Having a significant financial interest in an organization which funds the WNC employees research work.

Section 3: Procedure

  1. Each investigator covered by this policy will annually report all significant financial interests held by themselves, their spouse and/or dependent children that are relevant to proposed or funded sponsored projects.
  2. Disclosures will be made on the Conflict of Interest Policy Disclosure form, Attachment I, to the appropriate Supervisor on an annual basis and/or when new significant financial interests are acquired. A disclosure form must be completed prior to the submission of an application for sponsored project funding.
  3. Positive disclosures will be reviewed by a committee composed of the Vice President of Finance/Administrative Services, two or more of the Academic Division Chairs including the cognizant Academic Director, the appropriate department chairpersons, and the Vice President of Institutional Development. Ad Hoc reviewers may be consulted on a case-by-case basis.
  4. In those cases where the committee determines that a real or apparent conflict exists, it will take one of the following actions:
    1. Accept the sponsored project.
    2. Not accept the sponsored project.
    3. Accept the sponsored project subject to certain conditions, e.g.:
      1. Monitoring of research by independent reviewers;
      2. Public disclosure of significant financial interest;
      3. Modification of the research plan;
      4. Disqualification from participation in all or part of the sponsored project;
      5. Divestiture of significant financial interest;
      6. Severance of relationships that create actual or potential conflicts
    4. Appeal of the decision may be made to the President of WNC, who will consult with the principal investigator and the review committee before making a final determination (within thirty days of the appeal) as to the action to be taken. In all cases, resolution of the actual or apparent conflict of interest will be achieved before WNC accepts a sponsored project.

Section 4: Compliance

  1. Alleged violation of WNCs Conflict of Interest policy will be reviewed by means of an inquiry conducted by the review committee. Instances of deliberate breach of the policy, including failure to file a disclosure; knowingly filing incomplete, erroneous or misleading disclosure forms; or failure to comply with procedures prescribed in fulfillment of this policy, will be evaluated by the review committee
  2. The review committee will recommend to the President the appropriate sanction, in accordance with Chapter Six of the NSHE Code. Possible sanctions include: formal admonition letter to the faculty members personnel file, suspension of privileges to apply for external funds, non-renewal of appointment, or dismissal.

Section 5: Records

  1. Disclosure forms and records of all further actions related to such disclosures will be maintained in the Office of the appropriate Vice President for three years following termination of the relevant award, or any subsequent action relating to that award.
  2. All disclosures and related documentation are considered confidential, and only those persons involved in the implementation of this policy will have access to such records.

Date(s) Revised June 19, 2013; September 2, 2008; May 11, 2004; Date(s) Reviewed