Chapter 13: Conflict of Interest and Commitment

The pursuit of knowledge and its open and timely communication and dissemination are the essential and core elements of Emory University. Emory therefore encourages and facilitates its faculty's efforts to obtain and share their knowledge and expertise broadly through sponsored research, consultation, and other activities that are beneficial to the faculty member, the university, and the public at large. Emory recognizes that a faculty member who is active in research, scholarly endeavors, teaching, and clinical practice can and will engage in activities with industry and/or generate propriety forms of knowledge that, while bringing clear value to the institution and to society, are also legally encumbered with conflicts of interest and commitment that often are unavoidable. Thus, the Bylaws of Emory University address conflicting interest transactions (Article IX), and Emory has an overarching conflict of interest policy, both presented below. Emory also has conflict of interest policies in research and clinical practice and conflict of commitment policies. All faculty conducting research must annually disclose any conflicts of interest. Further, many of the schools and colleges at Emory have adopted conflict of interest policies and industry relationship policies that comply with the university-wide policies but add additional rules, standards, and guidelines such as those found on the School of Medicine website. 

13.1 General University Conflict of Interest Policies

Faculty should refer to the policies website for a full listing of conflict of interest policies. 

Specific policies that may concern faculty include Conflicting Interest Transactions (Article IX of the Bylaws of Emory University) where employees of the university shall disclose any conflicting interest in any transaction involving the university and shall not use their personal influence in connection with, participate in, or act on the matter. Other policies are: 

Faculty should also refer to their school policies, as some may have more specific policies. In general, Emory requires its employees to avoid any business or financial relationship, transaction, or event that may be viewed, internally or externally, as a conflict of interest between an employee and an outside party. As provided in the Emory bylaws, relations between Emory and contractors, consultants, vendors, suppliers, and other third parties are to be maintained without any direct or indirect personal or financial benefit accruing to any employee of Emory or any member of the employee's family. 

13.2 Conflict of Interest in Research

Emory's Conflict of Interest Office (Research Administration) is described in Section 6.3.b. under Research Administration. It oversees administration and enforcement of policies and regulations on conflict of interest in research, which are federally mandated. Some schools, such as the School of Medicine, have offices that oversee faculty arrangements with external entities, such as the biomedical industry and other academic institutions, and coordinate with the COI Office when appropriate. The Emory Healthcare Compliance Office oversees conflicts of interest in clinical practice and operations and also coordinates with the COI Office when appropriate. A number of these schools and colleges within the university have additional frameworks and policies on conflict of interest and conflict of commitment, as well as additional reporting requirements and annual disclosure forms. Faculty may consult with the deans and directors of the schools and colleges, with Emory Healthcare's compliance office, or with their websites for more information. 

For reporting financial interests in research, Emory University has implemented eCOI, an online method with which faculty can report their external activities and personal financial interests online and receive review of their financial interests that might require a management plan. A "Financial Interests in Research Report" form must be completed by every "Investigator" at the time of proposal submission. An "Investigator" is the Project Director, Principal Investigator, member of the research team identified as Senior or Key Personnel on the grant or contract application, progress report, or any other report; and/or individuals identified by the Principal Investigator or Project Director who are responsible for and have substantial independent decision making in respect to the design, conduct, or reporting of the research. The Research Administrator or the Principal Investigator must complete a new Proposal Financial Interest in Research Report and input the names of all investigators on the study. Each of the investigators will receive an email notification from the eCOI system to log in and complete his/her individual Investigator Financial Interest in Research Report. For Emory personnel, the Proposal and Investigator Financial Interest in Research Report must be accessed through the Emory eCOI system. Investigators external to Emory whose institutions do not have policies and procedures compliant with the current federal regulations will be sent an email requesting the appropriate financial reporting information.

13.2.A Policy for Investigators Holding a Financial Interest in Research (Policy 7.7)

This policy seeks to foster research by providing guidelines and mechanisms for managing Investigator's Significant Financial Interests and when necessary resolving conflicts of interest. All members of the Emory community responsible for the design, conduct, or reporting of research are required to follow the procedures described in this policy. 

View Policy 7.7

13.2.B Institutional Financial Interests Involving Human Subject Research (Policy 7.24)

Emory University is committed to ensuring that its research involving human subjects is conducted with integrity and free from any actual or apparent bias due to institutional financial interests. This policy provides the standards and procedures that Emory University follows when Emory has significant institutional financial interests that are related to human subject research conducted by its investigators. 

View Policy 7.24

13.2.C NIH Financial Conflict of Interest Policies

The NIH website lists current regulations on conflict of interest in research and also resources and an archive of articles. 

View NIH Policies

13.3 Conflict of Commitment

Guiding Principle: Emory faculty owe their primary professional allegiance to the university; their primary commitment of time and intellectual energies is to the education, research, and other programs supporting the university's mission. The specific responsibilities and professional activities that constitute an appropriate and primary commitment will differ across schools, but they should be based on a general understanding between the faculty member, department chair (if applicable), and dean. Policy 7.38 governs conflict of commitment for faculty, as well as postdoctoral fellows or trainees and research staff.

13.3.A Policy Regarding Teaching, Research, and Other Service Outside the Faculty Member's School at Emory or Other Institutions (Full policy)

At Other Institutions: Teaching, research, and service outside of Emory is encouraged for the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge, the development of collaborations, and the engagement and promotion of activities on a local, regional, national, and global scale. These activities are expected to enhance the academic reputation of the individual faculty member as well as Emory University. These activities should complement and should not conflict with the faculty member's obligations to Emory University. 

Teaching, research, service , or other professional activities that are based on the faculty member’s expertise and knowledge  at or on behalf of another institution, regardless of whether compensation is received, is not authorized for full-time faculty during the contractual year, except in circumstances deemed to be appropriate by the dean of the school in which such faculty member holds a primary appointment. Authorization for such activities must be obtained in advance of initiating any commitment and/or compensation and will require the school's review of any written documents covering the activity. The appropriate dean or designee will review any written commitments and will provide his/her decision in writing. Faculty activities exempt from the disclosure and approval process include:

  1. Seminars, one-off or invited lectures, service on an advisory committee, or review panel when these activities are undertaken on behalf of a U.S. federal, state, or local government, domestic institution of higher education, or a U.S. academic teaching hospital, medical center or research institute affiliated with a domestic institution of higher education.
  2. Fellowships or awards managed through Emory’s Office of Sponsored Projects.
  3. Activities that are not related to specific expertise as long as commitments to Emory are not impacted.

For external activities that include Significant Financial Interests, appointments with other institutions of higher education and/or research institutes, external employment, consulting agreements that include the conduct of research, any contract that includes terms related to intellectual property (not including contracts with a publisher to create scholarly publications), or arrangements that include conducting research on behalf of another organization, the Conflicts Committee will review the disclosure and, if needed, create a management plan

At Emory: As an inquiry-driven, ethically engaged, and diverse community, Emory faculty are encouraged to promote interdisciplinary collaborations through teaching, scholarship, and service outside of the department(s) and/or school(s) in which they hold their primary appointment(s). Compensated teaching, research, or service in a department within the university other than the one(s) in which a full-time faculty member is primarily appointed may be arranged with prior approval of the dean(s) of the school(s) in which the faculty member holds appointment(s). In granting the authorization the appropriate dean(s) will take into consideration such factors as the total hours of work load to be undertaken by the faculty member, the effect on his or her professional development, compliance and intellectual property risks in research including effort committed on research, and the needs of the institutions involved. Course, clinical, or service release for similar purposes also must receive such prior approval. 

It is generally expected in most schools that faculty provide a yearly report of their faculty activities, both at Emory and outside the institution. These annual reports should provide an overview of all compensated and non-compensated activities and are in addition to the reviews by the dean, prior to initiating the activity. 

13.3.B Policy on Private Consulting, Teaching, and Other Services Outside the University and Use of University Resources (Full policy)

Disclosure and Review of Consulting Arrangements: "Private Consulting" is broadly defined as services performed or products created and/or sold for which remuneration in any form is received from a person, firm, corporation, or other entity other than Emory University. In general, each faculty member's "private consulting" arrangement must be disclosed in writing to and reviewed by the dean or designee in advance of any service to determine that the terms comply with university policies, and to ensure that the arrangement does not interfere with the faculty member's duties and responsibilities to the university. Faculty who cannot disclose adequate information to the dean for them to make an informed decision without violating requirements of confidentiality to their client must forgo the consulting arrangement. 

Traditional faculty responsibilities such as preparing papers, speeches, evaluations, articles, scripts, musical scores, books, and graphic works for publication, performance, oral presentation, peer review, or display, and for which royalties, honoraria, or the like are received, are considered a part of a faculty member's university employment and are not subject to these restrictions. However, reporting of these royalties and honoraria may be required under the federal regulations for certain faculty who are performing research on federal grants. 

University Resources, Letterhead, and Other University Identifiers in "Private Consulting": Faculty may not use university resources or personnel, including facilities, staff, students, or other trainees, equipment, or confidential information, other than library resources (except as noted below), in their private consulting activities, because such use violates the "private inurement" and/or "private benefit" restrictions imposed on the university as a tax-exempt entity and could result in the university's becoming involved in litigation. Faculty are reminded that many research agreements contain terms that require unpublished research data and/or results to be kept confidential. Further, use of university letterhead and other university identifiers that may lead the public to believe that the faculty member is acting within the scope of his or her employment with the university in connection with such private consulting is expressly prohibited. Professional faculty performing professional services through university-sponsored faculty practice plans, while permitted to use university resources, are required to use identifiers (such as letterhead) clearly indicating when they are acting on behalf of the plan and not in their university capacity. Certain library databases are contractually limited to use for university purposes. These databases may not be used for private consulting. Disclosure to library staff when library resources will be used is the responsibility of the faculty member. 

Faculty are reminded that some schools have a more detailed private consulting policy and should consult their school's policies and websites for details. Disclosure to the deans and the university, usually through Emory's online eCOI system, allows appropriate reviews and assistance to faculty.