2000-3-3Research Conflict of Interest

Responsible Executive:
President, Lambton College
Policy Sponsor:
Executive Dean, Applied Research & Innovation
Issue Date:
October 18, 2018
Supersedes Date:
October 27, 2006
Last Review:
October 18, 2018
Last Revision:
October 18, 2018

Upon request, the college will provide a copy of this policy in an alternate format.

This policy has drawn, directly and indirectly, from University of Waterloo Policy 69 – Conflict of Interest.

This policy is intended to protect the individual undertaking research, the College and the research clients and partners. Its fundamental tenet is that members of the College community should, of their own volition, disclose situations that give rise to a real or potential or perceived conflict of interest.

The mere existence of a conflict or a potential conflict of interest does not necessarily imply that the research activity should cease. Conflicts cover a broad spectrum from those that are minor and easily controlled or contained to those that may have very serious consequences. There are situations sufficiently complex that opinions or judgments may differ as to whether or not a conflict exists. Accordingly, any member of the College with a real or potential or perceived conflict of interest related to research activities has a responsibility to disclose the situation and details, and seek the advice, guidance and direction of the College.

Policy

  1. No researcher or research administrator shall engage in activities that create a conflict of interest.
  2. Notwithstanding the above, where approval of an activity - for which a real or potential or perceived conflict of interest has been disclosed or revealed - has been sought and received from the person with the authority to grant such approval - the activity shall be deemed not to be a conflict of interest, or not to be a significant or unacceptable conflict of interest, or to be a sufficiently contained conflict of interest.
  3. When a real or potential or perceived conflict of interest arises, the individual in conflict has a duty and is required to disclose the situation to the Executive Dean, Applied Research and Innovation.
  4. When a real or potential or perceived conflict of interest comes to the attention of, or becomes apparent to, a third-party individual, that individual is ethically obliged and is required to report the conflict of interest to the Executive Dean, Applied Research and Innovation.
  5. Any researcher or other individual involved with research who is aware of, or could be reasonably expected to be aware of, or is concerned with, a real or potential conflict of interest, or the perception of it, must report the matter to the Executive Dean, Applied Research and Innovation.
  6. Failure to report a conflict of interest will result in appropriate action by the College, including disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.

Conflict of Interest

  1. A conflict of interest or a potential conflict of interest exists when a member of the College is in, or may be in, a position to use research, knowledge, authority or influence for personal or family gain or to benefit others with a personal connection, to the detriment of the institution or its research partners or clients. [1]
  2. A conflict of interest arises when an individual's private, personal or commercial interests may be incompatible, or in conflict, with his/her responsibilities as a researcher or research administrator when the individual has the opportunity to advance or protect his/her own interests, or the interests of others with whom he/she has a relationship, in a way that is detrimental to the interests of the College or its research partners or clients, or potentially harmful to the integrity or mission of the College.

Types of Conflict of Interest

  1. Conflicts of interest may be individual or institutional.
    1. An individual conflict can be defined as any external activity or undertaking that places an individual in a position that:
      1. influences College research, education or business for personal gain or the gain of others with whom there is a personal, or potential personal, relationship, or
      2. interferes with or prevents the discharge of his/her College responsibilities, as defined by the individual's employment contract; this is, in reality, a conflict of commitment. 
      The overall direction of this definition is that the best interests of the College, or its research clients or partners, may be compromised to the personal benefit of the individual employee. 

      Individual conflicts of interest often derive directly or indirectly from opportunities to participate in externally-funded research and in a subsequent interplay between the results of the research and a faculty member's personal or financial interests. Such situations frequently place faculty and staff members in a position to manage contracts, select equipment and supplies, involve graduate students in sponsored research or play administrative roles that demand the utmost in integrity and honesty. Even the appearance of an apparent conflict can have a negative impact on the College and the individual in the eyes of the College and the broader community.
    2. Institutional conflicts of interest may occur when the College enters into contractual relationships with external bodies, usually private corporations but sometimes government agencies, that bring it into potential conflict with its mandate, with the personal activities of the members of its Board of Governors or even its status as an educational institution. These potential institutional conflicts must be monitored by the governing body of the College.

 Managing Conflict of Interest

  1. All disclosures of a real, potential or perceived conflict of interest shall be reported - in writing - to, and investigated by, the Executive Dean, Applied Research and Innovation.
  2. The Executive Dean, Applied Research and Innovation, in consultation with the Applied Research and department staff including the Research Operations Manager, will determine whether a conflict, real or potential, exists.
    1. In the event that a conflict exists or potentially exists, the Executive Dean, Applied Research and Innovation, will establish and direct a course of action to remove, avoid, limit, contain or monitor the conflict, after which written documentation of the directive will be held by the researcher or individual, the Research Operations Manager, the Executive Dean and the supervisor of the Executive Dean.
    2. In the event that a conflict, real or potential, is found not to exist by the Executive Dean, Applied Research and Innovation, written documentation of that decision will be provided to and held by the researcher or individual, the Research Operations Manager, the Executive Dean and the supervisor of the Executive Dean.
  3. In the event that the above decision of the Executive Dean is unacceptable to the researcher or individual, he/she may appeal the decision and refer the case for resolution to the Vice-President of Finance and Administration and, if necessary, the College President.
  4. When a significant real or apparent conflict of interest is brought to the Dean’s attention, the Dean will require the researcher to disclose this conflict to the prospective participants or subjects during the free and informed consent process.
  5. When a real or apparent conflict of interest is present, the Dean will require the researcher to disclose the conflict to the research subjects, the sponsors of the research, relevant institutions, relevant professional bodies and, if appropriate, the public-at-large.
  6. When a real or apparent conflict of interest is present, the researcher will either withdraw from the research or allow others to make research-related decisions without being directed to do so.
  7. The Executive Dean may require that the researcher abandon one of the interests in conflict.
  8. The Executive Dean will attempt to resolve conflict problems so that no one is unfairly disadvantaged.

Conflict of Interest Involving the Research Ethics Board (REB)

  1. REB members must be aware that financial, personal or professional interests could bias their decisions.
  2. REB members must disclose to the REB, through the Chair, actual, potential or perceived conflicts of interests related to any research under review.
  3. REB members must withdraw from the discussion of the REB or REB committee when their own research is under review by the REB, or when any projects with which they have any association are under review or consideration.
  4. REB members who have or may have a financial, business, or close personal links with research under review, or who have had a strong conflict or disagreement with the applicant researchers in the past, will undertake an assessment with the REB Chair and Board of the potential implications of the REB member's apparent or real conflict of interest.
  5. Should the REB determine that there is a significant real, potential or perceived conflict of interest, the conflicted REB member shall withdraw from the discussions of the Board or Board committee when such research projects are under consideration.
  6. In all cases of a real, potential or perceived conflict of interest for an REB member, the member and the REB shall be guided by the Conflict of Interest section of the policy 2000-3-1 Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans.  

References

  1. Policy 69 - Conflict of Interest, University of Waterloo 
    https://uwaterloo.ca/secretariat/policies-procedures-guidelines/policy-69

Appendix A

Conflict of Interest Examples

Examples of Potential Conflicts of Interest

The following list of examples, while not comprehensive, is illustrative of situations that may lead to an indirect or direct conflict of interest: [1]

  1. Favouring of Outside Interests for Personal Gain
    1. Entering into a research contract with a company in which the faculty or staff member, or a member of her/his immediate family, has a financial or other interest.
    2. Directing the faculty member's government sponsored research program to serve the research or development needs of a private firm in which the faculty member has a financial or other interest.
    3. Influencing the purchase of equipment or materials for the College from a company in which the faculty or staff member has a financial or other interest.
    4. Accepting significant gifts or special favours for personal gain from private organizations with which the College does business.
    5. Entering into a licensing agreement for the development of intellectual property, generated as a result of College research with a company in which the faculty or staff member has a financial or other interest.
  2. Inappropriate Use of College Personnel, Resources or Assets
    1. Using College staff or students employed on College time to carry out work on behalf of a supervising faculty or staff member for a company in which he/she has a financial or other interest.
    2. Using College resources or facilities, without authorization and reimbursement, to benefit a private concern in which the faculty or staff member has a financial or other interest.
  3. Inappropriate Use of Information
    1. Using for personal gain, or other unauthorized purposes, privileged information acquired as a result of the employee’s College-supported activities; such information might include knowledge of forthcoming developments requiring contractor or sub-contractor selection, bulk purchases, etc.
    2. Delaying publication of research results or releasing a premature announcement of research results to secure personal gain.
  4. Conflict of Commitment
    1. Undertaking external consulting, professional or other activities which, by virtue of their time commitment, prevent the employee from fulfilling her/his obligations to the College.
    2. Involvement in external organizations that bring an employee into a position of divided loyalty between the mission of the College and the interests of the external organization.
  5. Inappropriate Involvement in Appointment Processes
    1. Participating in the appointment, promotion or hiring of a person with whom the employee has a marital, familial or sexual relationship.
  6. Inappropriate Support of Research Funding
    1. Participating in the review of a research proposal application in which the individual:
      • would receive professional or personal benefit resulting from the funding opportunity or application being reviewed;
      • has a professional or personal relationship with the applicant; or
      • has a direct or indirect financial interest in a funding opportunity or application being reviewed.
       
  7. Conflicts within the Research Ethics Board
  8. A Research Ethics Board member is in conflict of interest when

    1. her/his own research projects are under review by the REB, or any project with which she/he has an association is under review;
    2. the member has financial, business or close personal links with a research protocol under review or has had a strong conflict or disagreement with the researchers in the past.

For questions or concerns regarding policies, please contact:

Jim Elliott
Director, Quality Assurance & Institutional Research
519-542-7751 x 3489
jim.elliott@lambtoncollege.ca

Back to Top