4.   Conflicts of Interest

Disclosure and management   


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Conflicts of interest can be defined as SITUATIONS in which a divergence between personal and professional interests might be perceived, such that an individual's professional actions might be viewed to be influenced by considerations of personal gain. Conflicts of interest can erode SCIENTIFIC OBJECTIVITY.

In the modern research university, it is impossible to completely avoid conflicts of interest. The goal of Stanford's policies in this regard is not, therefore, to eliminate all conflicts but rather to manage them. The key to Stanford's conflict of interest process is DISCLOSURE.

ALL Stanford faculty are required to submit to their School Dean an annual disclosure and certification of compliance with the Faculty Policy on Conflict of Commitment and Interest. In addition, as circumstances may arise during the year, ad hoc disclosures may be called for.

Conflicts of commitment, on the other hand, are situations in which the individual's time and energy are unreasonably diverted away from his or her primary professional allegiance, i.e., away from University responsibilities. Conflicts of commitment are managed in part through limits on the amount of time that a faculty member may consult (see Faculty Consulting Policy). Consulting and outside activities can create real benefits for the faculty member and for the institutions involved; they can also create conflicts of commitment, and can precipitate conflicts of interest.

Stanford's policies around these subjects are brought together in Chapter 4 of the Research Policy Handbook. Policies, forms and other resources are linked to the "Resource Page" in the box on the right.

Conflict of Interest
Resource Page

[ Dean of Research
site ]

It is often difficult to identify a potential conflict of interest. One way to sensitize yourself to possible issues is to review the faculty policy in its entirety. The policy, which resulted from over two years of discussion, presents a thorough analysis of issues and discussion of situations.

Conflicts can arise as a result of different types of relationships with outside organizations. The "Tips" document linked here lists several kinds of relationships, with considerations for each.

Tips for Managing Outside Professional Activities

To assure that all parties understand what is involved, if you are asked by an outside organization to sign a consulting or non-disclosure agreement, you must present them with a statement of Stanford's requirements in this regard.

In addition to Stanford requirements, two of Stanford's largest sponsors - the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) - have their own requirements for PI disclosures whenever a proposal is submitted to either agency.

Special attention is focused on conflicts of interest in BIOMEDICAL research, particularly in the relationships between faculty and pharmaceutical companies in the conduct of clinical trials.

Financial Conflicts of Interest
[ NIH tutorial ]

Any issues related to conflict of interest should be discussed with your School Dean. The offices of the Dean of Research and of Technology Licensing are also available to provide advice.


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