What is Conflict of Interest?
Although the legal definition varies from state to state, financial conflict of interest basically involves any situation in which an individual exploits his or her position for personal or financial gain. This is probably the most serious type of conflict because of its visibility and the potential for damage to the reputation of the University and all concerned.
The University's Individual Business or Financial Conflict of Interest Policy defines conflict of interest explicitly as follows:
"An individual business or financial conflict of interest shall mean a situation that compromises a covered individual’s professional judgment in carrying out University teaching, research, outreach, or public service activities because of an external relationship that directly or indirectly affects a business or significant financial interest of the covered individual, an immediate family member, or an associated entity, as defined in related administrative policy."
An obvious example, which is not allowed under University policy, is the ownership of - or a major interest in - a private firm by a faculty member who also has the decision-making responsibility in awarding a contract to that firm. Sponsorship of research involving human subjects by commercial firms in which the faculty member has a significant interest is another example of a high risk situation. However, many potential conflicts of interest can be complex and not as clearly discernible.