Individuals engaged in Research and scholarly activities or applying for federal, state, or local grants at Rice University have ethical and legal responsibilities with respect to Outside Activities and Outside Interests and the potential of those Outside Activities and Outside Interests to create Conflicts of Interest (COI) and Conflicts of Commitment (COC).
As discussed in this policy, all faculty, research staff, and designated students are required to submit a disclosure of non-Rice professional activities or financial interests. Outside Activities and Outside Interest, as defined below, must not influence decisions or actions of Rice individuals performing their Institutional Responsibilities including Research and scholarship. Further, individuals are prohibited from engaging in or contributing to Research if a conflict exists without an approved Management Plan.
Conflict of Interest (COI): a situation in which a Scholar or the Scholar’s Family Members are in a position to be influenced by considerations of personal gain due to an existing or potential Outside Interest or Outside Activity.
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.
Family Members: include the Scholar’s spouse, domestic partners, and any other person financially dependent on the Scholar. This definition also includes other first–degree relatives (i.e., non-dependent child, sibling, or parent), and the spouses and domestic partners of those first-degree relatives, with financial interests related to the Scholar’s Research (when the Scholar is aware of such interests). Scholars should also be sensitive to situations where 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).
Institutional Responsibilities: the professional responsibilities of a Scholar 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 his or her academic field of endeavor, professional practice, and consultation.
Management Plan: a plan written for a Scholar that 1) describes the conflict, 2) creates an explicit agreement between the Scholar and Rice to mitigate and manage the conflict, and 3) facilitates oversight of the conflict.
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 Scholar’s expertise. An outside activity includes, but is not limited to, employment, consulting, self-employment, participation in a business partnership, 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 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.
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/centers.
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, as discussed in subsection titled “What Must Be Disclosed.” This term applies to both foreign and domestic interests.
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 Research that Scholars engage in at Rice University.
A. Who must Disclose?
The following individuals employed by Rice University are required to file a disclosure further referred throughout this policy as “Scholar”:
Faculty Members, including all members of the University faculty with tenure and tenure-track appointments, as well as benefits-eligible non-tenure track members of the University faculty under University Policy No. 201. This definition also includes Research Professors and Teaching Professors. All Faculty Members are required to submit an annual disclosure and update it throughout the year.
Research staff and individuals in research support positions including postdoctoral appointments, visiting scholars, research scientists, and research technicians under University Policy No. 438, working directly on Research or involved in the creation of intellectual property on behalf of Rice University must submit an annual disclosure and update it throughout the year.
Investigator: for purposes of this policy, any University employee who is a Principal Investigator or listed as a co-investigator on a Research project or grant. This broader term includes all employees (faculty or staff designation) engaging in Research, and any individual to whom Principal Investigator or co-principal investigator status has been provided. It shall also include other individuals, including significant contributors, collaborators, consultants and others regardless of position, title or compensation from an award, who are independently responsible for the development, design, conduct, or reporting of a sponsored Research project.
Principal Investigator (PI): the individual officially responsible for the scientific conduct, design, and reporting as well as all budgetary decisions of a sponsored project/program. On Research projects, the PI is usually a Faculty Member; the PI may also have an administrative or other staff appointment with PI eligibility under University Policy No. 301.
Students may also be required to submit a disclosure if they are working directly on sponsored project, have their time paid for by sponsored project, or who are involved in the creation of intellectual property on behalf of Rice University.
Rice places the responsibility on the individual to maintain ethical and objective Research and scholarly practices and to provide an accurate, timely, and up to date disclosures of Outside Interests and Outside Activities.
B. What Must Be Disclosed?
The following is a list of Outside Interests and Outside Activities (both foreign and domestic) that must be disclosed. Faculty Members must also disclose Outside Interest and professional Outside Activities conducted during leave, such as during sabbaticals and summer months even if a faculty member holds a nine-month appointment.
NOTE: Despite the requirements provided below, sponsors, government agencies, and scholarly journals may have more comprehensive disclosure requirements; Scholars should also refer to the guidelines and policies for such Outside Entities to ensure compliance with these external policies.
The following is a list of Outside Activities and Outside Interests not required to be disclosed:
C. When is Disclosure Required?
Scholars must disclose their Outside Interests and Outside Activities (as described above).
Scholars must submit disclosures:
The Provost or a designee will make an annual request for disclosures to all Scholars. Outside of the annual disclosure process, the Office of Research, the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research Compliance (SPARC), and/or the relevant school dean may also, initiate a disclosure request upon receipt of relevant information about previously undisclosed actual or potential significant Outside Activities or Outside Interests.
D. Review of Disclosures
SPARC reviews all submissions and make initial assessments whether something that has been reported may be a COI or COC (typically within 10 business days). If a report is identified as a potential COI or COC, the respective dean’s office is notified to review and evaluate. The respective dean’s office and SPARC will provide a preliminary assessment of any potential COI and whether this COI is manageable or not. The preliminary assessment will be shared with the Scholar. Assessments resulting in a determination that a COI may be present will then be referred to the Faculty Conflict Committee (FCC) to review the proposed Management Plan. In instances where the dean’s office and SPARC cannot resolve the matter, it will be referred for review to the Vice Provost for Research (VPR) or the FCC. If the VPR and the FCC cannot resolve the matter to the mutual satisfaction of the Scholar, SPARC, and the dean’s office, then the matter is referred for further review by the Provost, with the Provost rendering the final decision.
Determinations about COC are the purview of the Scholar’s relevant dean’s office.
In cases of students and staff, their direct supervisor, department chair, or director may review and evaluate the potential COI or COC in accordance with the respective dean’s office.
Department chairs and their designees assist deans and the VPR and their designees in the submission and review of disclosures from their respective departments. The dean’s office may consult with department chairs in determining whether a manageable COI or COC exists and the proper elements to include in a Management Plan.
No sponsored Research funds related to the COI under review may be expended until the review of the potential COI is complete or a Management Plan is approved by the FCC or the Provost.
E. Management Plans
If a conflict is identified, a Management Plan will be prepared by SPARC, and the dean’s office, and the Scholar.
A Management Plan written for a Scholar shall:
1) describe the conflict;
2) create an explicit agreement between the Scholar and Rice to mitigate and manage the conflict; and
3) facilitate oversight of the conflict.
Typical elements of the plan include restriction of certain activities, informing students about the existence of the conflict, required disclosures for publications and presentations based on the Research, a list of disclosure requirements based on relevant laws, regulation and policies of Research sponsors. The proposed Management Plan will then be submitted to the FCC.
F. Faculty Conflict Committee (FCC) Review
The FCC is a faculty committee composed of at least seven voting members, appointed by the President, and chaired by the VPR or designee. The FCC is responsible for reviewing Management Plans for all Scholars and students, approving them, or, in the case where there is not agreement about the Plans between the Scholars and the FCC, recommending them to the Provost for approval. The FCC also determines whether a disclosed Outside Interest or Outside Activity requires a Management Plan in cases that are complex, or where there is a disagreement. The FCC may also be asked to provide guidance regarding interpretation of University policy and procedures.
The FCC will consider all relevant data and either affirm or dispute a conflict finding from dean and SPARC. In order to expedite review and consideration, the FCC may consider the existence of a conflict and a proposed Management Plan simultaneously. The list of the potential conflicts and the recommendations of the relevant dean and the FCC will be forwarded to the Provost.
The FCC will then review a proposed Management Plan and either approve the plan, send it back with recommended revisions to SPARC and the dean, or make a determination that a Management Plan is unnecessary. For conflicts that arise or change while a Scholar is working under an active grant or sponsored Research project/contract, an acceptable Management Plan must be developed in a timely fashion and in accordance with federal and University guidelines.
The Scholar may appeal the final conflict assessment resulting in a Management Plan or terms of the Management Plan by submitting an appeal in writing to SPARC and addressed to the Provost within 15 business days of receiving the final conflict assessment. The appeal request should include supporting information that there is not a conflict or that that the Management Plan should be revised.
Upon receiving the Scholar’s appeal, the Provost will review and reconcile decisions within thirty (30) business days of receiving the appeal. The decision of the Provost is final (e.g., denying the Scholar’s appeal, requiring changes to the Management Plan, determining that a COI is unmanageable, determining that a Scholar’s Outside Interest or Outside Activity does not constitute a COI).
If a COI exists, and a Management Plan has not been approved, then the COI has not been mitigated and the Scholar is prohibited from conducting the conflicted Research or Rice activity.
H. Monitoring the Execution of a Conflict Management Plan
On an annual basis, Scholars with Management Plans must submit a report to their deans and SPARC detailing their compliance with the Management Plan. The content for the report will be defined in detail within the original Management Plan.
The FCC will review Management Plans and reports submitted by Scholars no less than annually. If additional information is required, Scholars will be given a reasonable amount of time to correct the submission. The FCC or other appropriate University officials may request an interview with Scholars as part of their review.
I. External Reporting Requirements
Some federal regulations pertaining to financial COI and objectivity in Research may require a retrospective review of Outside Interests and Outside Activities in the event of noncompliance. Some agencies may also require the publication of identified COI on University websites. The University will provide information and make disclosures required by federal agencies within stipulated timeframes and retain all documents relevant to conflicts and their management PHS funded research will be managed and reported in accordance with the requirements of 42 CFR 50, Subpart F.
Non-compliance with this policy or applicable local, state and federal regulations may have serious consequences and may result in administrative, civil, or criminal penalties against individuals, relevant Outside Entities, and the University. Individuals may be prohibited from conducting sponsored Research until the matter has been fully investigated and resolved.
If the failure of a Scholar to comply with this policy negatively affects Research, the University may be required to notify the relevant government officials/agencies and the relevant sponsoring agency or agencies.
Scholars who purposefully or knowingly submit a false or incomplete disclosure or purposefully or knowingly violate the terms of a Management Plan may be precluded from performing Research and appropriate disciplinary action may be taken, up to and including termination, including, for Faculty, sanctions under University Policy No. 201.
K. Confidentiality and Federal Reporting Requirements
Any individual at the University participating in the review and management disclosures must maintain must take reasonable steps to ensure the confidentiality of the information. Information relating disclosures and Management Plans may be shared with those whom the University believes have a legitimate interest in having access to such information, including, but not limited to, the deans’ offices, the FCC, the Office of General Counsel, and those involved in creating, implementing and monitoring a Management Plan.
Responsible Official: Vice Provost for Research
Other Key Offices: Sponsored Projects and Research and Compliance; Office of Research
David W. Leebron, President
August 22, 2012 (replacing Policy 216 September 3, 1997 and Policy 332 January 9, 1996
June 2020 (Policy 216 became Policy 216, 217, and 218)
September 10, 2013