A conflict of interest occurs when outside interests of a faculty member or members of his/her immediate family conflict with Western Carolina University’s commitment to objectivity and integrity in research. This can occur when an investigator and/or members of his/her immediate family stand to benefit from particular research outcomes.
University Policy 54 recognizes the importance of the research mission to the University and acknowledges that it is enhanced when members of the University community interact with other groups and organizations, including businesses, government entities, not-for-profit groups, professional societies, and other academic institutions. In these interactions, there is the potential for a conflict of interest when external activities, income, or other interests may affect or appear to affect the research activity pursued within the university. It is critical that business transactions and the design, conduct or reporting of research/scholarly activity not be biased or compromised by any conflicting financial interest or other potential or actual personal gain for an investigator or the University or one of its units. Failure to comply may jeopardize existing or future institutional funding, and erode public trust.
Federal laws and regulations require Western Carolina University to have a process in place to manage conflicts of interest involving federally funded research. The policies of WCU and the applicable federal regulations recognize that the existence of a potential conflict of interest does not necessarily mean that the outside interest or activity must be avoided or discontinued. Often, potential and actual conflicts of interest can be addressed effectively by disclosure or other steps to resolve or manage the conflict.
Before any application for grant or contract funding may be submitted by the Office of Research Administration, the principal investigator must certify for all investigators on the research team the presence or absence of potential for conflict of interest.
Further, the 2011 Final Rule issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requires that all applicants to PHS (includes NIH and HRSA) funding opportunities must complete a full disclosure statement prior to submission. The National Institutes of Health has published Frequently Asked Questions to help clarify the 2011 revised regulations.
Resources addressing Proprietary Information/Data in research for industry and government:
- University-Industry Relations Brochure (PDF)
- University-Industry Partnership Confidential Disclosure Agreements contract accord (PDF)
- University-Industry Researcher Guide 2012 (PDF)
- Confidential Proprietary Information excerpt (Word)
- Council on Government Relations: Data Rights and Responsibilities March 2012 (PDF)