FAQs and answers - Conflict of Interest / Conflict of Commitment

What is the difference between conflict of interest and conflict of commitment?

According to the Notre Dame Policy on Conflict of Interest, “A Conflict of Interest arises in a situation where financial or other personal or professional considerations compromise an individual’s objectivity, professional judgment, professional integrity, and/or ability to perform his or her responsibilities to the University”. 

A Conflict of Commitment can be said to exist when a member of the university community has a relationship that requires a commitment of time or effort to non-university activities such that an individual, either implicitly or directly, cannot meet the usual obligations to the university.  For Faculty, obligations to the university are not discharged solely by meeting classes but require availability to students outside the classroom, participation in various committees, supervision of graduate and postdoctoral students, and progress in research programs.  Any relationship with an outside organization that requires frequent and/or prolonged absence from the University presents a Conflict of Commitment.

What are Notre Dame’s rules on each?  Where can I find the policies?

The Notre Dame Policy on Conflict of Interest can be found at the following location at the following location: http://policy.nd.edu/policy_files/ConflictofInterestPolicy.pdf

 

The policy states:

 

“An actual Conflict of Interest arises in a situation where financial or other personal or professional considerations compromise an individual’s objectivity, professional judgment, professional integrity, and/or ability to perform his or her responsibilities to the University. In addition to situations that clearly give rise to an actual Conflict of Interest, individuals are cautioned also to consider gray areas that might create the perception of or the potential for a Conflict of Interest. Perceived or potential Conflicts of Interest can be said to exist in situations where an individual member of the University community ( Member ), a member of the individual’s family ( Family ), or a close personal relation ( Close Relation ) has  financial interest s, personal relationships, or professional associations with an individual, individuals, or outside organization, such that his or her activities within the University could appear to be biased against the University by that interest or relationship and in favor of the financial or non-financial benefit of the Member, the Member’s Family, or the Member’s Close Relation.

 

All Members of the Notre Dame community are committed to identifying and avoiding situations and activities that constitute a Conflict of Interest in the execution of their duties for the University. Furthermore, activities, situations, and relationships that might create the perception of or potential for a Conflict of Interest must be identified and managed appropriately. In every instance, the University reserves the right to make a determination in light of its best interest.

 

On no less than an annual basis, all Members, whether they are engaged in activities that might create the perception of or potential for a Conflict of Interest or not, are required to submit a Conflict of Interest Disclosure Survey to their respective Reviewer. (See Appendix: Disclosure Reviewer Matrix)

 

Members are further charged with the responsibility of accurate and prompt disclosure to their respective Reviewer within 15 calendar days of: (1) a change in status of an existing actual, perceived, or potential Conflict of Interest; (2) the identification of a new actual, perceived, or potential Conflict of Interest.”

 

The University Policy on Conflict of Commitment is covered in the facluty handbook under "General Univrsity Policies" (http://facultyhandbook.nd.edu/university-policies).

The policy states:

"University of Notre Dame faculty owe their primary professional commitment to the University and are expected to devote their time and intellectual energies to the instructional, research, scholarship, creative works, and service mission of the University in a manner commensurate with their employment status. During the academic terms, faculty obligations are normally discharged through research, scholarship, creative works, teaching, and service."

 

I’ve heard that full disclosure resolves most conflicts of interest. Is that true?  If so, who do I tell?  If not, what do I need to do to resolve the conflict?

Full disclosure is only part of the management process outlined in the University Conflict of Interest Policy (http://policy.nd.edu/policy_files/ConflictofInterestPolicy.pdf).  In most instances formal disclosure is made to your department head (for staff), or the Dean (for faculty).  If an actual, potential, or perceived Conflict of Interest is determined to exist, a Management Plan may need to be developed and implemented in order to effectively manage the Conflict. 

 

A colleague in my department said I need to disclose a conflict of commitment based on my involvelment in commercialization activities .  Is that true?  Who do I need to inform?

The Faculty Handbook contains a Policy on Conflict of Commitment (http://facultyhandbook.nd.edu/university-policies/) listed under the "General University Policies."  This policy groups activities in four categories which reqiure a different level of disclosure and approval.  

I want to help commercialize my technology.  What do I need to be concerned about if I am the founder of the company that commercializes my technology, the company asks me to consult for them, or the company wants to make me a shareholder in return for help with technical matters?

 

Inventor participation is welcomed, encouraged, and in most cases vital for the successful commercialization of emerging technologies.  In all three cases it is important that you are familiar and in compliance with the University Conflict of Interest Policy and the Conflict of Cimmitment Policy.