2,050: Conflict of Interest Policy

Revised: June 2020

Policy Statement and Purpose

The University of Nevada, Reno (University) fosters and encourages research, creative and scholarly endeavors, entrepreneurial activity, and interactions with external entities. However, it recognizes that some external interests and relationships can lead to real or perceived conflicts of interest. Conflicts of interest (COI) arise when financial or other personal considerations have the potential to adversely affect, or have the appearance of adversely affecting, an employee’s professional judgment or ability to fulfill his or her obligations to the University.

Conflicts of interest do not necessarily imply wrongdoing. However, undisclosed conflicts of interest can call into question the professional objectivity and ethics of the individual, damage the collegial environment, and reflect negatively on the University.

The purpose of this policy is to establish the requirements for disclosing, reviewing, managing, and eliminating conflict of interest situations at the University.

Procedures for the implementation of this policy are available on the Sponsored Projects website.

Applicability

This policy applies to all employees of the University of Nevada, Reno. Colleges, schools, departments, and divisions within the University may have additional conflict of interest policies that address their specific needs and include additional processes and/or requirements.

Related Regulations and Policies

University employees are considered public employees and must comply with the Code of Ethical Standards of the State of Nevada as codified in the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 281A.400-281A.660. Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Board of Regents Handbook sections addressing conflicts of interest include:

  • Title 4, Chapter 10, Section 1.7: Prohibited Conflicts of Interest
  • Title 4, Chapter 3, Section 9: Compensated Outside Professional Services
  • Title 4, Chapter 3, Section 7: Nepotism
  • Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 27: Personal Use of System Property or Resources

University Administrative Manual (UAM) policies related to conflicts of interest include:

  • UAM 2,690: Faculty Providing Scholarly and Professional Outside Compensated Services
  • UAM 6,515: Ethical Standards in the Conduct of Research
  • UAM 1,525: Personal Use of University Property
  • UAM 5,302: Policy for Use of University Space

As recipients of federal funding, the University complies with all federal conflict of interest regulations, including:

  • 2 CFR Part 200 – the Uniform Guidance
  • 42 CFR Part 50, Subpart F – Promoting Objectivity in Research
  • The National Science Foundation Grant Policy Manual
  • As well as all sponsor requirements

Conflict of Interest Disclosure Requirements

Certain financial interests and relationships can result in situations that create a risk that an employee’s professional judgment or actions could be unduly influenced by external interests. Disclosure is central to the university’s ability to identify these situations and take action to eliminate, reduce or manage associated risks.

All university employees must submit a conflict of interest disclosure if they have any of the significant financial interests and/or external relationships listed below (1) at the time of hire and (2) within thirty days of discovering or acquiring a new significant financial interest or external relationship.

Additionally, the following employees must annually submit a conflict of interest disclosure during the university’s conflict of interest disclosure campaign.

  • Academic faculty
  • Administrative faculty
  • Classified staff
  • Medical residents

During the annual COI disclosure campaign, the aforementioned employees either identify potential conflict of interest situations or attest that they have none. Deans, directors, and vice presidents are responsible for compliance with annual disclosure requirements for employees in their units.

Investigators submitting proposals to a Public Health Service agency or the National Science Foundation must have a current COI disclosure on record no later than the at the time of proposal submission.

A disclosure informs the University about a set of circumstances that involves risk. It is not a reflection on the likelihood that the employee would actually allow an outside interest to influence his or her professional judgment or use their university position to gain an unwarranted advantage for an outside interest.

Significant Financial Interests That Must Be Disclosed

Employees must disclose the following significant financial interests of (1) the employee and (2) persons to whom the employee has a commitment in a private capacity. Only financial interests that could reasonably be considered to be related to an employee’s university responsibilities need to be disclosed.

  1. Compensation from and/or equity interest in publicly traded companies: Disclose if the aggregate value of compensation and equity interests received from a U.S. or foreign publicly traded company exceeded $5,000 in the 12 months preceding the disclosure; or if it is anticipated that the aggregate value of compensation and equity interests from a U.S. or foreign publicly traded company will exceed $5,000 in the 12-month period following the disclosure.
  2. Equity interest in non-publicly traded companies: Disclose any equity interest in a U.S. or foreign non-publicly traded company within the 12 months preceding the disclosure or anticipated in the 12-month period following the disclosure.
  3. Compensation from non-publicly traded companies, non-profit institutions, and governmental organizations: Disclose if the aggregate value of compensation received from a U.S. or foreign non-publicly traded company, non-profit institution, or governmental organization exceeded $5,000 in the 12 months preceding the disclosure; or it is anticipated that the aggregate value of compensation from a U.S. or foreign non-publicly traded company or non-profit institution will exceed $5,000 in the 12-month period following the disclosure.
  4. Income from intellectual property rights and interests: Disclose if the aggregate value of income related to intellectual property rights and interests received from an entity other than the University exceeded $5,000 in the 12 months preceding the disclosure; or if it is anticipated that such income will exceed $5,000 in the 12 months following the disclosure.

Significant Financial Interests That Do Not Need to Be Disclosed

  1. Salary, royalties, or other remuneration paid by the University to employee when she/he is currently employed or otherwise appointed by the University.
  2. Intellectual property rights assigned to the University and agreements to share in royalties related to such rights, when an employee is currently employed or otherwise appointed by the University.
  3. Equity interests in or income from investment vehicles (e.g., mutual funds and retirement accounts) when the employee does not directly control the investment decisions made in these vehicles.
  4. Income from seminars, lectures, or teaching engagements sponsored by a Federal, state, or local government agency; a U.S. institution of higher education (as defined by 20 U.S.C. 1001(a); an academic teaching hospital, a medical center, or a research institute that is affiliated with a U.S. institution of higher education.
  5. Income from service on advisory committees or review panels for a Federal, state, or local government agency; a U.S. institution of higher education; an academic teaching hospital, a medical center, or a research institute that is affiliated with a U.S. institution of higher education.

External Relationships That Must Be Disclosed

The following external relationships have the potential to create conflicts of interest and must be disclosed, regardless of the level of compensation:

  1. Industry affiliations with pharmaceutical, medical device or medical equipment companies.
  2. Management positions with fiduciary responsibilities such as a board member, director, partner, or trustee with an outside entity that has a business relationship with the University.
  3. Any other relationship with an external entity that has the potential to result in a conflict of interest situation.

Paid Travel That Must Be Disclosed – Public Health Service Investigators Only

Investigators on research projects funded by a Public Health Service agency must disclose the occurrence of any reimbursed or sponsored travel from an outside entity that was related to their institutional responsibilities if the aggregate value was over $5,000. Disclosure must include the purpose of the trip, the identity of the sponsor, the destination and the duration.

This disclosure requirement does not apply to travel that is reimbursed or sponsored by a Federal, state, or local government agency; a U.S. institution of higher education (as defined by 20 U.S.C. 1001 (a)); an academic teaching hospital, a medical center, or a research institute that is affiliated with a U.S. institution of higher education.

Student Impact That Must Be Disclosed

To protect students’ rights as researchers and scholars, faculty members must comply with the following requirements:

  1. Faculty members must disclose restrictions on publication or communication rights on sponsored projects when students are involved in the project and their involvement is the basis for evaluation of the student or fulfillment of degree requirements.
  2. Faculty members must disclose their intent to hire a university student as an employee or contractor for an outside entity in which they have a significant financial interest if the student is either (a) enrolled in a class that the faculty member teaches; (b) under the faculty member’s supervision on a research project; or (c) the faculty member is the chair of the student’s graduate committee.

Conflict of Interest Oversight

COI Designated Official

The University has designated an institutional official to solicit and review conflict of interest disclosures, provide information and training about conflicts of interest to the university community, and to facilitate compliance with conflict of interest policies and regulations.

COI Committee

The COI Committee supports the university’s goal of assuring that education, research, administration, public service and all other university activities are free from the undue influence of external interests by providing collaborative review, discussion and recommendations regarding conflict of interest situations. 

The COI Committee is comprised of a committee chair and five faculty members. COI Committee members are recruited by the COI Designated Official through the Faculty Senate committee preference survey or in consultation with major unit/departmental administrators. To facilitate a balance of perspectives, the composition of the committee should represent a broad spectrum of the campus community, including units that are involved in research activities. The COI Designated Official may serve as the committee chair. The COI Committee also includes ex officio members as appropriate for the situation under consideration.

COI Committee members serve three-year terms, must complete COI training, and must be in compliance with this COI policy. A COI Committee member may serve for more than one term.

Conflict of Interest Reviews

The COI Designated Official provides the initial assessment of a potential conflict of interest situation. If the outcome of the initial assessment is that the situation is likely to be a conflict of interest, the situation will be referred to the COI Committee. If a conflict of interest determination is made, the COI Committee recommends actions to manage or eliminate the risk.

Conflict of Interest Management

When the COI Committee has determined that a conflict of interest situation can be managed, the COI Designated Official works with the employee and others to develop and implement a COI Management Plan based on the COI Committee’s recommendations. The COI Management Plan must be reviewed for compliance at least annually. The plan will be closed when the conflict of interest situation no longer exists or the COI Committee determines that the risk is no longer manageable and must be eliminated.

Conflict of Interest Elimination

Under certain circumstances, the University may require that the conflict be eliminated rather than managed. For example, if it is determined that the conflict of interest situation is one that is prohibited under institutional or other policies, or that the risk of harm outweighs potential benefits.

Conflict of Interest Requirements for Subrecipients

The University is required to take reasonable steps to ensure that subrecipients on sponsored projects comply with the sponsor’s conflict of interest requirements.

Appealing Conflict of Interest Determinations

Employees may appeal a conflict of interest decision through written notification to the Vice President for Research and Innovation for a research-related conflict of interests, or the Executive Vice President & Provost for a non-research related conflict of interests. Employees may appeal to the President of the University concerning the decision of the Vice President for Research and Innovation or the Executive Vice President & Provost. The President’s decision on the appeal is final. A Vice President may appeal a conflict of interest decision by notifying the President. The President’s decision on the appeal is final.

Conflict of Interest Reporting Requirements

Sponsored Projects

The University will comply with all requirements to disclose conflicts of interest to sponsors of externally funded grants and contracts.

NSHE Scholarly and Professional Outside Compensated Services Report

The University submits an annual report to NSHE regarding compensated outside professional and scholarly services completed by its full-time faculty (aggregate data). The report also includes data on the number of annual COI disclosures submitted by each unit and the number of employees in each unit with COI Management Plans. Data from this report is sent to the Board of Regents annually.

Noncompliance with Conflict of Interest Policy

Violation of this university policy may result in discipline as specified under NSHE Code Chapter 6 and UAM 2,370 and could result in civil and criminal penalties pursuant to NRS Chapter 281A.500-550.

Institutional Conflicts of Interests

The University and its employees are bound by Nevada State Law regarding Ethics in Government (codified at NRS 281A). The University must avoid and/or manage conflicts of interests where its beneficial relationship with corporate entities may place it in conflict with its responsibilities as a public institution. Also, the University must abide by NSHE Code. See Higher Education and the Common Good (NSHE Code T2 Ch2, Section 2.1.1 (external PDF)). Matters that may involve institutional conflict of interests may be considered by the COI Designated Officer or the COI Committee or referred to University Counsel.

Definitions

  1. “Related to an employee’s university responsibilities”: A significant financial interest is considered to be related to an employee’s university responsibilities and must be disclosed if:
    1. The employee is in a position to make or influence decisions on behalf of the University that could benefit the external entity.
    2. Results of the employee’s research could be of financial interest to the external entity.
    3. The financial interest could result in a situation that would cause a reasonable person to question the employee’s objectivity in fulfilling their responsibilities for the University.
  2. “Compensation”: Refers to anything of value received from an outside entity in any form, including, but not limited to salary, consulting fees, speaker fees, honoraria, paid authorship, loans, stocks, bonds, stock options, and rights to patent or royalty payments.
  3. “Equity interest”: Stock, stock options, warrants, and other existing or contingent ownership interests in a commercial entity.
  4. “Commitment in a private capacity”: Per NRS 281A.065, means a commitment, interest or relationship of an employee to a person:
    1. Who is the spouse or domestic partner of the employee;
    2. Who is a member of the household of the employee;
    3. Who is related to the employee, or to the spouse or domestic partner of the employee, by blood, adoption, marriage or domestic partnership within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity;
    4. Who employs the employee, the spouse or domestic partner of the employee or a member of the household of the employee;
    5. With whom the employee has a substantial and continuing business relationship; or
    6. With whom the employee has any other commitment, interest or relationship that is substantially similar to a commitment, interest or relationship described in a. to e. inclusive.
  5. “Investigator”: The project director or principal investigator of a sponsored project, and any other person, regardless of title or position, who is responsible for the design, conduct, or reporting of research, which may include, for example, collaborators and consultants.