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Appendix 1 : Examples of Conflicts of Interest and Ways to Manage Them

Situation Declaration Possible Management Strategy
Teaching and/or supervision-related

A staff member who has a close personal or familial relationship with a student or a person connected to the student and who may be involved in decisions about the student’s admission, supervision or academic progress, or the award of studentships, prizes or grants to the student.

To Head of Institution or a senior member of the HR Division
 
The student will be made aware of the disclosure and arrangements will be put in place to avoid the staff member having any professional connection with the student.
See: Policy on Personal Relationships Between Staff and Students
Research-related

a) A researcher with a financial interest in the licensee (or proposed licensee) of University intellectual property for which they are a sole or joint creator.

b) A researcher whose work is funded by a company and who has a financial interest in the company sponsoring or funding their research (or the research of a supervisee). This is exacerbated if the researcher’s interest may be affected by the outcome of the research.

c) A researcher who holds a position in an enterprise (e.g. as Director) that is funding research at the University and which may wish to restrict (or otherwise manage) research findings for commercial reasons, or not wish to publish the results of the research.

d) A PI proposes that their company be used to carry out subcontracted work on a research grant. 

To Head of Institution or appropriate delegate and (where appropriate) Cambridge Enterprise  a) All decisions relating to the negotiation of the licence that require input or decisions from the researcher or their Institution must be made by the Head of Institution in liaison with Cambridge Enterprise.

 

b) The researcher declares this interest in all publications and as part of any application for ethical approval. The researcher should recuse themselves from any key decisions that could benefit the company.

c) An appropriate collaboration agreement should be put in place by the Research Operations Office to set out the management of research findings and publications amongst other terms.  The PI must not be involved in the negotiation of the terms of the agreement.

d) The Head of Institution should first ensure, that Financial Regulations are followed regarding whether the subcontract is awarded to the PI-owned company. The PI should not be part of the University decision-making process due to their conflict of interest.  If the subcontract is awarded to the PI-owned company, clear lines of demarcation will be needed to clarify when the PI is acting on behalf of the University (e.g. making decisions about the research funded by the grant) and when they are acting for the company.  The Head of Institution will need to set up some form of scrutiny for any decisions where the PI is conflicted. Any staff from the company embedded in the PI’s academic lab must be known to be company staff and only afforded access to University facilities etc on the commercial terms agreed in the subcontract.

Managing conflicts of interest in research is part of a researcher’s responsibility under the Concordat to Support Research Integrity
Also see: Good Research Practice Guidelines

Secondment-related
A Head of Department has a 0.2fte secondment to a research Institute (not part of the University of Cambridge) specifically to supervise a programme of research at, and funded generously by, that Institute.  They are one of several staff in the Department who have close collaborations with that Institute.
Head of School The Head of Department cannot absolutely determine and agree, on behalf of the University, the terms of their own secondment and any associated collaboration agreement.  The matter should be escalated to the Head of School.

 
In the event of a dispute between another member of the Department and the same Institute, the Head of Department is in a conflicted position as they owe duties to both institutions and should escalate to School level

Start-up/spin-out-related

a) An academic is sole owner of a start-up company and has a small amount of private funding to take it forward.  As the funding is modest and access to an expensive piece of University equipment is key to developing the work, the academic places Dr X, a postdoc and company employee working on the start-up, in the corner of their University lab.  Access to the equipment is governed by a Facilities Committee, which agrees both time and charges for use (subsidized by the Department for University research, higher charges for externals) on which the academic sits.

b) An academic has some exciting IP and is planning to set up a spin-out company which could make a lot of money.  The academic decides that a collaboration with an existing commercial partner would help prepare the ground for a joint venture between the spin-out and that company to develop their ideas and proposes a collaboration agreement between the University and the third party company.  The Research Office pick up that the terms seem unusually favourable to the third party company and recommend a series of changes to protect the University, however the academic seems very resistant and reluctant to upset the third party company in any way.

Head of Institution a) The academic should not be party to decisions on whether, and at what cost, Dr X is able to use the equipment.  The company should also pay the Department bench fees for use of the lab by Dr X generally, in addition to the equipment fee.  They should declare to the Head of Department and Chair of the Facilities Committee the full nature of the arrangements with Dr X and take no part on behalf of the University in the negotiation of terms of the agreement with the start-up.

 

b) The academic needs to declare their conflict of interest to their Head of Department and take no further part on behalf of the University in the negotiation of terms with the third party company.

HR-related

A staff member who would normally be involved in the selection process for a new appointment learns that a close family member is applying for the role.

Chair of the Recruitment Panel No member of staff may be involved in the recruitment process where a relative is a candidate. Therefore, the staff member’s role in the selection process should be carried out by another member of staff. See: Policy on Employing and Working with Relatives
Committee-related

a) External committee member who advises or sits on committees at other universities.

b) A committee member who has an outside interest in an item on the agenda.

c) Student member of a committee, who is also part of a student society which has been lobbying for a policy that relates to one of the agenda items.

d) A committee member is in a position to judge research (some of which is in their particular research area) that could be put forward for funding.

To Head of Institution (for register of conflicts of interests) and Chair of Committee or delegate (when the conflict relates to a particular agenda item) a) Membership of other bodies which could constitute a conflict of interest should be recorded in the Institution’s register of conflicts of interests. 

 

b-d) The individual should declare specific conflicts at the start of meetings when relevant. The Chair should decide what action may be necessary, which may include the conflicted member:

  • absenting themselves from the discussion and decision of the item; or
  • remaining for the discussion but not the decision on the item; or
  • remaining for full item, but not participating in the decision.

The conflict and action should be minuted.

Finance-related
A staff member who takes part in the negotiation of a contract between the University and a supplier where they, or a person connected to them, has a financial or non-financial interest in that supplier.
To Head of Institution The employee should declare the conflict prior to engaging the company, so that the Head of Institution can update the register of conflicts of interests and pre-authorise the engagement and/or expenses, if they are deemed appropriate.  See: Procurement Services’ Guidance