I. General College Policy
Connecticut College requires disclosure of any actual or perceived conflict of interest in order to protect the integrity and credibility of the College, its faculty, and its employees, so that public trust and confidence is ensured. This policy is not meant to impinge on academic freedom.
An actual or perceived conflict of interest occurs when there is a divergence between one's private interests and his/her obligations to the College such that an independent observer might reasonably question whether the individual's actions or decisions are determined by considerations of personal gain on the part of the individual (or members of his/her immediate family) that may relate to College programs, research, use of facilities, or use of external or internal funds.
Any full- or part-time member of the faculty, any individual conducting or cooperating on grants, research, or projects through the College, and any College employee is required to submit a written disclosure statement fully describing the situation to the Dean of the Faculty (for faculty) or the Vice President for Finance (for employees) in a case that could present or could be perceived as presenting a conflict of interest. The disclosure statement should be submitted as soon as the situation arises. Disclosure is a key factor in protecting the College, and one's reputation and career from potentially embarrassing or harmful allegations of misconduct.
II. Federally Sponsored Research and Program Policy
In addition, under new federal regulations, for faculty and employees involved with NSF and DHHS grants, disclosure in a particular format is required if the individual (including members of his/her immediate family) has any significant financial interest that might reasonably appear to be affected by the research or activities funded or proposed for funding, or in entities whose financial interests would reasonably appear to be affected by the research.
For NSF and DHHS (NIH, NIMH, PHS) grant applications, any full- or part-time member of the faculty, any individual conducting or cooperating on research or project grants or contracts through the College and any College employee is required to submit the Significant Financial Disclosure form, together with supporting documentation in a sealed envelope marked confidential, to the Connecticut College Grants Office in a situation that could present or could be perceived as presenting a conflict of interest with respect to external grants prior to the submission of the grant application. If there are no such situations with respect to individuals associated with the grant (excluding students), the Principal Investigator(s) will so indicate on the revised (9/95) College Approval Form which will be signed by all P.I.'s.
The College will be responsible for determining whether the disclosed information could directly and significantly affect the design, conduct, or reporting of grant-funded activities.
For the purposes of NSF and DHHS significant financial interest is defined as anything of monetary value, including but not limited to:
- Salary or other payments for services (e.g., consulting fees or honoraria)
- Equity interests (e.g., stocks, stock options or other ownership interests)
- Intellectual property rights (e.g., patents, copyrights and royalties from such rights)
The term does not include:
- Salary, royalty, or other remuneration from the College;
- An equity interest that when aggregated for the individual, spouse, and dependent children, meets both of the following tests: does not exceed $10,000 in value as determined through reference to public prices or other reasonable measures of fair market value, and, does not constitute more than a five percent ownership interest in any single entity;
- Salary, royalties, and other payments that when aggregated for the individual, spouse, and dependent children over the next twelve months, are not expected to exceed $10,000;
- Income from seminars, lectures, or teaching engagements sponsored by public or nonprofit entities;
- Income from service on advisory committees or review panels for public or nonprofit entities.
Provided, however, that exclusions in the first three items shall not apply if the compensation or transfer of an equity interest is conditioned upon a particular outcome in the research or project.
As required by the federal regulations, it is the responsibility of the individual to disclose all significant financial interests prior to the time a proposal is submitted, and any conflict of interest must be resolved prior to the expenditure of grant funds. All financial disclosures must be updated by the individual during the period of the award, either on an annual basis or earlier, as new reportable significant financial interests are obtained.
This policy also applies to situations in which the College (and/or its faculty or employees) are involved, either as subcontractors, in grants made to another institution. Collaborators from outside the College must either comply with this policy or provide a certification that their institutions are in compliance with federal policies regarding investigator significant financial interest disclosure and that their portion of the project is in compliance with their institutional policies.
Regardless of the above minimum requirements, a faculty or staff member, in his or her own best interest, may choose to disclose any other financial or related interest that could present an actual conflict of interest of be perceived to present a conflict of interest. Again, disclosure is a key factor in protecting one's reputation and career from potentially embarrassing or harmful allegations of misconduct.
B. Review Process
Disclosure forms and accompanying documentation will be forwarded to the Dean of the Faculty (for faculty) and the Vice President for Finance (for employees) who will conduct an initial review to determine whether a conflict of interest exists. They will be guided by the following considerations:
- Assure adherence to relevant College policies;
- Consider the nature and extent of the interest in the relationship of the individual and the funded project;
- Where appropriate, give special consideration to the terms and conditions of sponsored project agreements that may mitigate or complicate the given situation;
- Where appropriate, consult with the faculty through the FSCC;
- Consult with and obtain any additional information from the individual that may be helpful in resolving any actual or potential conflicts;
- Consult with the College President, attorney, and/or other individuals as appropriate;
- Act in a timely manner so as not to delay unduly the conduct of activities; and,
- Reach a conclusion and communicate that, in writing, to the individual.
The Dean of the Faculty or the Vice President for Finance will conclude that the College may take one of the following actions:
- Accept the sponsored project;
- Do not accept the sponsored project; or,
- Accept the sponsored project provided certain conditions or restrictions are imposed so that the conflict will be managed, reduced, or eliminated. Examples of conditions or restrictions are:
- public disclosure of significant financial interests
- monitoring of research by independent reviewers
- modification of the research plan
- disqualification from participation in all or a portion of the research
- divestiture of significant financial interests
- severance of relationships that create actual or potential conflicts
If it is determined that imposing conditions or restrictions would be inequitable, and that the potential negative impacts that may arise from a significant financial interest are outweighed by interests of scientific progress, technology transfer, or the public health and welfare, then the Dean of the Faculty or Vice President for Finance may recommend that, to the extent permitted by federal regulations, the research go forward without imposing such conditions or restrictions. In these cases, the president shall make the final decision regarding resolution.
C. Managing Conflicts of Interest
The resolution shall be incorporated into a Memorandum of Understanding between Connecticut College and the individual that details the conditions or restrictions imposed on the individual. The Memorandum of Understanding shall be signed by the individual and, on behalf of the College, the Dean of the Faculty or the vice President for Finance, as appropriate. Actual or potential conflicts of interest will be satisfactorily managed, reduced, or eliminated in accordance with these guidelines and prior to accepting any award they will be disclosed to the sponsoring agency for action.
D. Appeal Process
If the individual is dissatisfied with the conclusion of the Dean of the Faculty, or the Vice President for Finance s/he may appeal to the President who will consult with the individual and others as deemed necessary and appropriate to the particular circumstance. The decision of the President shall be final.
E. Violations of Conflict of Interest Policy
Individuals are expected to comply fully and promptly with the policy. Instances of deliberate breach of policy, including failure to file or knowingly filing incomplete, erroneous, or misleading disclosure forms, violations of the guidelines, or failure to comply with prescribed monitoring procedures may result in sanctions being placed on the violating individual. The Dean of the Faculty or the Vice President for Finance will review allegations of violations and will make recommendations to the President regarding the imposition of sanctions.
F. Record Maintenance
Records of individual disclosures and of actions taken to manage actual or potential conflicts of interest shall be maintained by the Dean of the Faculty, the Vice President for Finance, and/or the President, as the case may be, in accordance with applicable regulations, if any, for at least three years beyond the completion of the grant period. Access to such records shall be at the discretion of the Dean of the Faculty, or the Vice President for Finance, or the President, as the case may be, except as required by law. The sponsoring agency may have access.