Policy Number: 216

Policy Suffix:

I. General Policy

Rice University holds integrity as one of its strongest values that define the Rice community. While the Rice Research community is encouraged to engage in Outside Activities that advance the University mission and their scholarship, certain Outside Activities that create, preserve, and disseminate knowledge may in some circumstances introduce actual, potential, or perceived Conflicts of Interest (COI) or Conflicts of Commitment (COC). This policy’s scope addresses such conflicts that arise in the academic and research settings.

Rice has a responsibility to ensure that its teaching and research environment fosters the generation of new knowledge and positive learning opportunities for students and preserves the integrity of its research enterprise and the public’s trust. Rice policy, therefore, requires that Rice officers, faculty, staff and others acting on its behalf avoid or mitigate real or perceived financial or personal conflicts of interest and ensure that their activities and interests do not conflict with their obligations to Rice or its welfare. The university’s concern with conflict of interest has grown with the increasing complexity of our society, the variety of our relations with each other and with outside institutions, and a heightened national sensitivity to these issues. The federal government also promulgates various requirements, which are subject to change over time.

This policy establishes standards and requirements regarding Outside Activities and Outside Interests that are designed to protect the scholar, the Rice community, and the university and its reputation, and ensure that the scholar and the university meet the contractual and legal obligations imposed by federal regulation. Transparency of these activities supports high standards of excellence and promotes public trust in discovery and scholarship.

II. Definitions

Confidential Information: Non-public information that is under a legal or contractual obligation not to be disclosed to the public, Outside Entities, or specified individuals. Examples of Confidential Information can include but is not limited to Research data with or without personal identifying information, student records, medical records, information disclosed under a non-disclosure agreement, or similar non-public information.

Conflict of Commitment (COC): Scholars’ efforts to balance Institutional Responsibilities with Outside Activities can result in conflicts regarding allocation of time and energies. COCs occur when Scholars are unable to meet quality and performance expectations for their Institutional Responsibilities due to their involvement in Outside Activities.

Conflict of Interest (COI): A conflict of interest (COI) can be any situation in which financial or other personal benefits have the potential to compromise a researcher’s professional judgment and objectivity in the design, conduct or reporting of research. A COI in Research or scholarly activity arises when the design, conduct, outcomes, and reporting of a Scholar’s Research or scholarship have a real, potential, or perceived connection to the Outside Interests or Outside Activities of that Scholar or their Family Members. These situations may compromise, or may have the appearance of compromising, a Scholar’s objectivity and judgment while conducting Research or scholarly activities. Such situations may create an actual or perceived bias affecting data collection, data interpretation, hiring and managing staff, procurement of materials and services, sharing of results, confidentiality, protocol choice, data analysis, and/or the overall integrity of Research. All areas of scholarship, across the university and its schools, may produce real, potential or perceived COI.

Conflict Manager: The designee in a Scholar’s academic/research unit that is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Scholar’s Management Plan. This person will also be a point of contact for any of the Scholar collaborators, students, or subordinates when needed for the implementation and continued oversight of a Management Plan.

Family Members: include the Scholar’s spouse, domestic partner, and any person financially dependent on the Scholar. Scholars should also contact conflicts@rice.edu to discuss situations where the Scholar is aware that other relatives have an Outside Interest reasonably related to the Scholar’s Institutional Responsibilities (such as a significant investment in a start-up company that has licensed the Scholar’s intellectual property).

Faculty Conflict Committee (FCC): is a committee composed of Faculty Members and staff appointed by the Executive Vice President for Research. The role of the FCC is to review, revise as needed, and recommend for approval management of any COI identified. The FCC also has responsibility for monitoring management plans and offering guidance to Scholars and Rice personnel.

Institutional Responsibilities: the professional responsibilities of a Scholar on behalf of the University. Institutional Responsibilities include, for example, scholarly inquiry, Research, publishing scholarly work, teaching, preparing coursework, counseling students, service on departmental and University-wide committees, and other work done for or on behalf of the University relevant to their academic discipline. Institutional Responsibilities include professional service activities related to scholarly work, such as serving as a journal editor, a board member of a professional organization, and organizing a professional conference. Peer review activities, such as review panels for funding agencies, universities, and academic programs, or program assessments for other institutions, are considered institutional responsibilities. Speaking engagements at academic or research institutions or government agencies are considered part of a Scholar’s institutional responsibilities. Regardless of whether an activity falls into the categories of institutional responsibilities defined above, all activities with foreign entities must be disclosed.

Management Plan: a plan written for a Scholar that 1) describes the COI and/or COC, 2) creates an explicit agreement between the Scholar and Rice to mitigate and manage the Conflict, and 3) facilitates oversight of the Conflict. A Management Plan may also describe monitoring requirements for any other member of the Rice Research community who may be affected by a Scholar’s involvement with Outside Entities.

Outside Activity: compensated or uncompensated activities performed outside the scope of a Scholar’s Institutional Responsibilities for or on behalf of an Outside Entity that relate to a Scholar’s Institutional Responsibilities. An Outside Activity includes, but is not limited to, employment, consulting, self-employment, participation in a business partnership, honorific appointments, and participation with professional, community, and charitable Outside Entities. In general, service on a board (for-profit, non-profit, advisory, honorary, or otherwise) will constitute an Outside Activity. This term does not include religious, political, or purely personal activities.

Outside Entity: any foreign or domestic institution, organization, non-profit, corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, institution of higher education, foreign or domestic government, or any other organized legal entity other than Rice University or its subsidiaries.

Outside Interest: an interest (financial interest or anything of monetary value) such as salary and any payment for services (e.g., consulting fees, honoraria, paid authorship); equity interest (e.g., stock, stock option, or other ownership interest); sponsored travel, that belongs to the Scholar or the Scholar’s Family Members with an Outside Entity; and in-kind payments or payments on the Scholar’s behalf (e.g., equipment donations; funding paid directly to Research staff or visitors). This term applies to both foreign and domestic interests.

Proprietary Information: any information, data, discoveries, and technologies developed which have either not been made publicly available, not been made available to an Outside Entity, or has been shared under a signed confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement with an Outside Entity, collaborators, or affiliates.

Research: a systematic investigation, study, or experiment designed to develop or contribute to knowledge or advance a particular field(s) of study. This term is intended to be construed broadly, to cover all types of scholarly inquiry and Research that Scholars engage in at Rice University.

Scholar: includes all faculty members, including Tenured, Tenure-Track, Non Tenure-Track, and Teaching Faculty. This term also encompasses the following: Investigator, Principal Investigator, laboratory personnel, postdoctoral fellows, research scientists, visiting researchers, and any other personnel engaging in Research at Rice University. Further, Adjunct Faculty and students who are Investigators (such as principal investigator, co-investigator, or key personnel) on a Rice sponsored Research project are considered Scholars.

III. Roles and Responsibilities

The Executive Vice President for Research (EVPR) is responsible for implementing Rice’s policy for conflicts of interest and commitment in research and scholarship. The Executive Vice President for Research, along with the Provost, is responsible for evaluating alleged non-compliance, making determinations, and implementing any related administrative actions.

Deans and Department Chairs are responsible for reviewing potential Conflicts of Commitment (COC) and providing initial approvals for COCs. The Deans and Department Chairs, at their discretion, are also responsible for designating one or more members of their academic/research unit to oversee the implementation of Management Plans within their unit. In units that are not part of a school, their director will serve as the Department Chair and the director of their faculty advisory/steering committee will serve as their Dean. If the Scholar’s unit does not have a faculty advisory/steering committee, the EVPR will designate a faculty member in the academic/research unit to serve as the “Dean” under this policy.

The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) is responsible for administering the disclosure process, providing guidance to the research community, and supporting the Faculty Conflicts Committee’s (FCC) activities. ORI conducts an initial assessment of information provided by Scholars and works with the FCC to determine if activities pose a COI and if and how they may be managed. The FCC and a Conflict Manager within the Scholar’s academic/research unit are responsible for overseeing conflict of interest management plans.

The Provost is responsible for implementing administrative actions against a faculty member. Additionally, all decisions under this policy that impact a faculty member’s employment, appointments, or involve levying or pursuit of disciplinary action against a faculty member are appealable to the Provost’s Office.

Scholars are responsible for ensuring compliance with this policy by completing related training modules, providing accurate and complete disclosures, submitting updates on a routine basis, and following Management Plans, as applicable. Scholars are expected to provide information and disclosures to external parties as directed by this policy, contractual obligations, or as directed by Rice University.

IV. Elaboration of Policy

A. Disclosures

Scholars at Rice University must disclose Outside Interests and professional Outside Activities in accordance with Policy 218 Disclosure and Management of Outside Activities and Outside Interests and must keep the disclosure up to date throughout the year. Scholars are responsible for reporting all changes to Outside Activities and Outside Interests within 30 days of when a change occurs. This requirement includes disclosing Outside Activities and Outside Interests that occur during the summer months.

B. Training

COI/COC training is a prerequisite to conduct Research at Rice, including submitting external grant proposals, receiving funding awards, and establishing external Research contracts. Scholars must retake COI/COC training at least once every four years, when significant revisions are made to relevant Research-related policies, or as required by law. Additionally, Scholars may be required to take COI/COC or other training as part of a Management Plan. The Office of Research Integrity is responsible for assigning trainings under this policy.

C. Limits to Outside Activities

Scholars with full-time employment at Rice may generally engage in Outside Activities with no COC so long as the time devoted toward such activities do not exceed 20% of their total Rice professional appointment. Outside Activities for Scholars with part-time appointments are considered on a case-by-case basis and generally do not represent a COC. The allocated 20% of total professional effort of non-Rice Outside Activities for Full time faculty members is cumulative but excludes Outside Activities carried out during the summer months for which the Scholar does not receive salary from Rice University.

Scholars may participate in Outside Activities that create a COC if prior written approval is provided by the Scholar’s department chair or director (for faculty members) or supervisor (for all other Scholars). In deciding to allow a COC, the approval authority will consider the total time commitment, and whether allowing a COC will enhance the professional development of the scholar and enhance the public recognition and prestige of the University. When a COC is approved, the decision and any restrictions shall be clearly communicated and documented. The Scholar may appeal any decision made regarding a COC to their dean or supervising vice president. Final appeals will be decided by Provost (for faculty) and the EVPR (for all other Scholars). The Provost and EVPR may confer on all cases prior to a final decision.

D. Entrepreneurship and Start-Ups

Entrepreneurship and start-up activities are an essential component of the University’s mission and global impact, and can provide Scholars with a pathway for dissemination of their Research into societal impact. At the same time, when a Scholar holds an equity or other Outside Interest in an entity that also licenses intellectual property owned by Rice or that is engaged in commercialization related to a Scholar’s Research, an actual or perceived COI may arise, Management Plan is required.

E. Sponsored Projects with Outside Entities

When Rice is exchanging Sponsored Research funding with an Outside Entity in which a Scholar holds an Outside Interest, this activity creates the risk of an actual or perceived COI, with the Scholar controlling both the Rice portion of the award as well as the Outside Entity’s portion of the award. As such, a COI exists if the Scholar holds the title of a Principal Investigator on the Rice award and any of the following apply:

  1. The Scholar or their Family Member also holds title of Principal Investigator on the Outside Entity’s award;
  2. The Scholar or their Family Member holds a senior leadership position for, or may exercise substantial supervisory authority over or has substantial discretion when acting on behalf of, the Outside Entity; or
  3. The Scholar or their Family Member each respectively or collectively holds a controlling interest in the Outside Entity.

Remedies to such a COI must be enacted prior to commencement of the Research activities or the exchange of funding. This process is explained in Policy 218 Disclosure and Management of Outside Activities and Outside Interests.

Grants management staff will ensure that the time commitments for Scholars who participate in sponsored projects are consistent with certifications of effort made for grants, contracts, and sponsored project awards. These time commitments include activities during the summer months. Adjustments in effort as a result of Outside Activities during the calendar year shall be coordinated with the Office of Research and Cost Accounting.

F. Professional Practice and Scholarly Activities

Specific disciplines expect professional practice activities as part of faculty scholarship and creative works. These activities are defined in this policy as Institutional Responsibilities and are not considered to be Outside Activities that require disclosure as a potential conflict of interest. Examples of these activities include architectural designs, art paintings or sculptures, visual choreography, performances, and mental health services. Faculty may be compensated for these activities and may manage related business ventures as independent proprietors. This privilege assumes that the rights of students, as described in Section IV.G. will be preserved. Students may be involved in business ventures if the arrangement is disclosed on the Scholar’s COI disclosure form and the business interest is disclosed to the student. The FCC may assist Scholars and students in clarifying expectations at any time during the relationship.

G. Rights of Students

Part-time student involvement in a Scholar’s Outside Activities may, under certain conditions, support substantial educational benefits to the student. Nonetheless, the educational success of those students is heavily dependent on the University’s ability to insulate that relationship from inappropriate pressures. In considering such arrangements, Scholars should be guided by the need to prioritize the student's academic duties and rights while avoiding conflicts. This is particularly true for any Scholar with Outside Interests in an Outside Entity that holds a supervisory or advisory role over students who are also involved or may be involved with the Outside Entity. These situations can occur in a variety of situations including when the Scholar and student form an Outside Entity together or when the student interns at or consults for an Outside Entity in which the Scholar has an Outside Interest. The overlap between the Scholar’s roles at the University and the Outside Entity may compromise the Scholar’s Institutional Responsibilities in terms of supporting the student’s academic progress and therefore warrants additional monitoring. In cases such as these, additional requirements may be detailed in the Management Plan, such as requiring disclosure to the student, requiring the student to meet periodically with the dean’s office or department, or assigning a co-advisor.

Management Plans require Scholars to inform students of Outside Activities that have the potential to introduce actual or perceived conflicts that could affect the student. Additionally, students have the right to discuss their concerns about potential conflicts with their deans’ offices, the Office of Research Integrity, and anonymously through the Ethics Line. Students may also request to be placed on a different Research project that is not impacted by the potential conflict. However, granting this request is dependent upon school and departmental availability of substitute projects and the availability of suitable funding. In the event a substitute project is unavailable, the school, department and Scholar will work with the student to identify a suitable solution (such as assigning a new advisor). Throughout this process, students are also protected from retaliation in accordance with Rice policies, such as Policy 813.

H. Consulting

Rice University recognizes the positive benefits of Scholars providing consulting services to Outside Entities and the potential impact to industry, business, government, our society, and the Scholar’s own Research. Consulting to Outside Entities carries an essential responsibility to prevent ethical and legal COIs, including the Scholar’s ability to fulfill Institutional Responsibilities to students, trainees, research activities, and service appointments. Scholars must complete the following actions to reflect their primary loyalty to Rice University:

  • Fully disclose Outside Activities and update disclosures as relationships evolve
  • Ensure transparency with department chairs and supervisors
  • Consider impacts to students, including effective mentoring and advising
  • Ensure a legal agreement is in place in the event of any potential intersection of intellectual property between Rice and the Outside Entity

See Section IV.C. for limits to consulting activities.

All consulting activities, with the exception of expert witness engagements, must be disclosed to Rice University in advance, and require the inclusion of the Rice Addendum to Faculty Consulting or Related Agreement as an addendum to the faculty’s consulting agreement with the outside entity. All consulting activities, including expert witness engagements, must be disclosed in the Scholar’s annual disclosure. It is the Scholar’s responsibility to ensure that the terms of their consulting or related agreements with Outside Entities do not conflict with their Institutional Responsibilities or other obligations to Rice University and are consistent with Rice University policies.

Additionally, the services Scholars provide during the course of consulting or other engagement with an Outside Entity should not impair the Scholar’s ability to perform Institutional Responsibilities for Rice or fully enjoy academic freedom. Scholars should consider how restrictions on the flow of information may impair their or their students’ ability to fully participate in the free discourse of scholarship and make decisions accordingly. The Office of Research Integrity can provide guidance for situations that may affect Institutional Responsibilities or the education of students.

I. Special Considerations

A Scholar’s involvement in Outside Entities may necessitate special consideration when structuring agreements involving a substantial commercial element. In order to support the Scholar’s activities, the FCC will likely consider the vast majority of these conflicts of interest manageable and will work with the Scholar to mitigate the risk. Examples of situations that are likely manageable COIs and will necessitate additional review include but are not limited to:

  • Consulting for Outside Entities that have licensed the Scholar’s Rice technologies;
  • Consulting for Outside Entities in areas of Research currently funded in their lab at Rice;
  • Permitting Outside Entities’ use of University facilities and services without a written agreement; and
  • Permitting Outside Entities’ access to Research materials and unpublished data generated in University facilities without a written agreement (e.g., material transfer agreement, data sharing agreement) or other contractual requirement.

Circumstances that will be deemed unmanageable conflicts of interest include but are not limited to:

  • Negotiating with the University on behalf of an Outside Entity in which the Scholar has an Outside Interest;
  • Negotiating on behalf of the University with an Outside Entity in which the Scholar has an Outside Interest; and
  • Executing an assignment agreement where the IP assignment term conflicts with the IP terms of the University, their sponsored Research, or a federal grant involving the same or related technology.

Scholars who find themselves in one of these unmanageable situations must contact the Office of Research Integrity (integrity@rice.edu) to devise a solution.

J. Conflicts Related to Proprietary Information

Scholars may have access to Confidential or Proprietary Information acquired through Rice employment, business, or Research. If a Scholar desires to use any Proprietary or Confidential Information while working on behalf of an Outside Entity or provide an Outside Entity access to such Information, then the Scholar must work with the Office of Technology Transfer or the Office of General Counsel to establish an appropriate agreement between Rice and the Outside Entity. Without such agreement, the Scholar must not use or share any Proprietary or Confidential Information with an Outside Entity or unauthorized persons.

K. Use of Rice Personnel, Students, Facilities or Materials

University personnel, students, offices, equipment, or facilities (other than the Library and Shared Equipment Authority) may be used during a Scholar’s work with Outside Activities as long as a sponsored research agreement or facilities use agreement is in place. That is, using laboratory spaces, equipment, and department services to support a Scholar’s Outside Entities or any entity in which a Scholar holds an Outside Interest requires contractual agreements and prior written approval by the FCC, with final approval by the Executive Vice President for Research. For commercialization activities, final approval may be granted by the Vice President for Innovation.

Incidental use of University-owned computers, university email accounts, and software authorized for home use, is appropriate without written approval. Additionally, if the service or equipment used is advertised for use as a Service Center with an established external rate, the Scholar may purchase the service or equipment used following established Rice University procedures. Scholars should also consult University Policy No. 831 on personal use of University property.

L. Usage of Rice University Name

The simple identification of the University as the employer of a Scholar is generally appropriate. However, while the Scholar may mention their employment at Rice University, the Scholar, their organizations, and Outside Entities must not use the trademarks, name or logos to endorse products or services. The Vice President for Public Affairs must be consulted concerning the proposed use of the name of Rice University or any Rice University logo or trademark in commercial matters or any situation where University endorsement is implied.

M. Requirements for Subawards/Subcontractors and Subrecipient Investigators / Institutions

Federal regulations pertaining to COI extend to subawards and/or subcontractors (including commercial entities). Accordingly, Rice will require appropriate certification from subrecipients both at the time of proposal submission and award acceptance. The written agreement terms between institutional partners shall establish which institution’s COI policy applies. See University Policy No. 307 on “Issuing and Monitoring Subawards and Subcontracts.”

N. Compliance Review

Because the University has certain regulatory and contractual compliance responsibilities, in situations that pose COI or COC risks to the Scholar or the University, the University retains the right to review Scholars’ consulting, employment, licensing or IP assignment agreements with Outside Entities. The University will conduct such review only with the authorization by the EVPR.

Sponsors of grants and contracts may require the Scholar or Rice University to submit any agreements the Scholar enters into with Outside Entities based, organized, or primarily operated outside the U.S. when those agreements include a research component or intellectual property assignment.

V. Cross References to Related Policies

Rice Policy No. 100, Standards of Ethical Conduct
Rice Policy No. 201, Faculty Appointments, Promotions, and Tenure
Rice Policy No. 201A, Faculty Senate Procedure for Investigating Accusations Warranting Severe Sanctions, including Dismissal, Against Faculty Members
Rice Policy No. 301, Policy for the Submission and Administration of Sponsored Projects
Rice Policy No. 304, Effort Reporting
Rice Policy No. 327, Research Faculty
Rice Policy No. 333, Intellectual Property Policy
Rice Policy No. 404, Dual Employment and Multiple Jobs
Rice Policy No. 807, Partisan Political Activities
Rice Policy No. 831, Stewardship and Personal Use of University Property
Rice Policy No. 832, Appropriate Use of Information Technology
Rice Policy No. 838, Conflict of Interest

VI. Responsible Official and Key Offices to Contact Regarding the Policy and its Implementation

Responsible Official: Executive Vice President for Research

Other Key Offices: Office of the Provost, Academic Departments, Office of Research Integrity, Office of Sponsored Programs

VII. Procedures and Forms

Online Disclosure Form
Addendum to Faculty Consulting or Related Agreement


Reginald DesRoches, President

Policy History


March 5, 2024 (the existing Policies 216 and 217 combined to become Policy 216)

June 8, 2020 (the existing Policy 216 became Policy 216, 217 and 218)

September 10, 2013


August 22, 2012 (replacing Policy 216 September 3, 1997 and Policy 332 January 9, 1996)

Clerical Changes

January 31, 2023