Policy Number: 217

Policy Suffix:

I. General Policy

As employees of Rice University, Faculty Members owe their primary professional commitment to Rice University (unless they are part time). As a consequence of their employment, the primary professional commitment of time and energy of full time Faculty Members is to their Institutional Responsibilities. A Conflict of Commitment (COC) arises when Faculty Members undertake external professional commitments that interfere with their primary commitment to Rice University

As a general rule, it is a COC if Faculty Members spend more than 20% of their total professional effort, on non-Rice professional Outside Activities, the equivalent of one day a week on average, cumulative for all Outside Activities. Exceptions may be granted by the appropriate dean or vice president.

Outside Activities include (but are not limited to) employment, consulting, self-employment, participation in a business partnership, appointments, public service, or pro bono work on behalf of an Outside Entity when those activities have some relation to the primary field of study for the Faculty Member, or related to the Faculty Member’s Rice duties or research. An Outside Activity may be either compensated or uncompensated.

Note: Outside Activities do not include personal service to religious or political organizations, that is unrelated to Rice duties, and such service does not have to be reported.

II. Definitions

Conflict of Commitment (COC): a situation in which the time or effort of a Faculty Member’s Outside Activities (e.g., consulting, public service, or pro-bono efforts) interfere or appear to interfere with the quality and performance of their Institutional Responsibilities.

Faculty Member: includes all tenure and tenure-track members of the University faculty under University Policy No. 201.

Institutional Responsibilities: the professional responsibilities of a Faculty Member on behalf of the University. Institutional Responsibilities include, for example, teaching, preparing coursework, counseling students, service on departmental and University-wide committees, research, publishing scholarly work, and other work done for or on behalf of the University relevant to their academic field of endeavor, professional practice, and consultation.

Outside Activity: activities performed for or on behalf of outside entities that are similar in nature, practice, or title to Institutional Responsibilities or require significant use of a Faculty Member’s expertise. An Outside Activity includes, but is not limited to, employment, consulting, self-employment, participation in a business partnership, professional appointments, research activities and participation with professional, community, and charitable outside entities. An Outside Activity may be either compensated or uncompensated. In general, any service on any board (for-profit, non-profit, advisory, honorary, or otherwise) will constitute an Outside Activity. Additionally, any academic appointment paid or unpaid, (e.g. honorary, visiting professor, adjunct, and emeritus) will be considered an Outside Activity. The term Outside Activity does not include personal service to religious or political organizations that is unrelated to Rice duties. This term does not include the normal academic exchange of ideas (such as an invited public seminar) that are not covered by a contract, do not involve any IP exchange, and that are not subject to federal, state or local restrictions. Such activities must be in accordance with all other university policies.

III. Elaboration of Policy

Faculty Members must provide prior written notification of Outside Activities, provide an annual disclosure, and must keep the disclosure up to date throughout the year in accordance with Policy 218 Disclosure and Management of Outside Activities and Outside Interests.

An accumulation of Outside Activities in excess of 20% of the Faculty Members’ total professional effort (or one day per week on average) is presumed to be a COC and require prior approval from the Faculty Member’s dean’s office. The allocated 20% of total professional effort of non-Rice Outside Activities for Full time Faculty Members is cumulative and includes all Outside Activities including activities carried out during the summer recess.

Activities such as pro bono seminars, lectures, or teaching engagements, editorial activities, professional society activities and government service in the public interest must be managed so they do not take precedence over a Faculty Member’s primary professional commitment, and count towards 20% of the Faculty Members’ total professional effort.

Participation in Outside Activities that create a COC are prohibited unless prior written approval is obtained from the relevant dean’s office or the provost. In deciding to allow a COC, the dean or provost will consider the total time commitment, and whether allowing a COC will enhance the professional development of Faculty Members (e.g., serving on an editorial board and advisory panels, performing, attending conferences, maintaining a professional license) and enhance the public recognition and prestige of the University. Generally, if a COC is allowed, the decision and any restrictions should be approved and documented.

Faculty Members who participate in sponsored projects must ensure that those time commitments are consistent with certifications of effort made for grants and sponsored projects awards. If questions arise about what is permitted by a particular grant or contract, clarification may be obtained by consulting SPARC.

V. Cross References to Related Policies

Rice Policy No. 201, Faculty Appointments, Promotions, and Tenure

Rice Policy No. 307, Issuing and Monitoring Subawards and Subcontracts

Rice Policy No. 327, Research Faculty

Rice Policy No. 411; Discipline

Rice Policy No. 832, Conflict of Interest

Rice Policy No. 831, Personal Use of University Property

Add 807 (political activity) and 832 (appropriate use of IT)

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

Responsible Official: Vice Provost for Research

Other Key Offices: Sponsored Projects and Research and Compliance; Office of Research

VII. Procedures and Forms





VIII. Links to Additional Information

Additional FAQ’s for faculty may be found at https://compliance.rice.edu/coi/faculty, and for graduate students at https://compliance.rice.edu/coi/grad


David W. Leebron, President

Policy History


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


June 8, 2020 (Policy 216 is now Policy 216, 217, and 218)

September 10, 2013