- General Rule
As explained in paragraph 4.2 of this Policy, the general rule is that disclosure should be made at the time the conflict first arises, or it is recognised that a conflict might be perceived, in writing to the Head of Department (or equivalent). If the Head of Department (or equivalent) has an interest in the matter to be discussed, the disclosure shall be made to the person at the next higher level of authority. In most cases of an academic nature, this will be to a Deputy Provost. For University Senior Officers, the line of approval is to the Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor or the Registrar or University Secretary, as appropriate. However, in some circumstances, the procedure is slightly different. These are set out below.
A Researcher with a conflict of interest must follow the procedures described in paragraph 4 and must also comply with the following requirements:
- Principal investigators:
To assist the assessment of situations which could lead to a real or perceived conflict of interest at the stage of applying for a research grant, or negotiating a contract, the University requires all principal investigators to clarify whether they have any personal interest (shareholding, consultancy, directorship, etc.) in relation to the proposed sponsor. This should be done at the time of submitting applications for external research funding to the Research Office.
Researchers must also comply with specific declaration requirements as laid down by the Ethics Committee. Researchers should contact the Secretary of the Ethics Committee if they have questions about those requirements.
- Requirements of funding bodies:
Some funding agencies set requirements relating to conflict of interest. They may, for example, require direct notification of certain interests to them; reserve the right to review the proposed plan for managing the conflict of interest; and/or prohibit grant holders from undertaking certain activities. Researchers need to be aware of and comply with those specific requirements. Researchers should contact the Research Office if they wish to seek advice on any aspect of funding terms and conditions.
- Financial interest in a company involved in a research project:
Staff or students who have a financial interest in an entity that may reasonably appear to be affected by the results of a proposed research must disclose that interest and put to both the Head of Department for review/approval a conflict of interest plan/approach designed to protect the integrity of the research and the reputation of the academic(s), their research group(s) and the University;
- Student receiving support from an entity in which his or her supervisor has a financial interest, or where the outcomes of the research are related to the activities of such an entity:
To preserve the integrity of the research the student and academic must disclose the conflict to both the Head of Department and the Chair of the Conflict of Interest Advisory Group for review/approval of a conflict of interest plan/approach.
- Spin-outs and licensees of University IP/External Consultancy
Staff or students may have a financial interest or other personal interest in a spin-out or in an organisation to which the University has licensed or is seeking to license University IP or may have personal IP with which they are intending to create a start-up company. In such cases:
- they should normally play no executive role in any decisions made between the University or its subsidiaries and such spin-outs or IP licensees. If it is believed that there are exceptional circumstances to argue for such involvement, prior permission must be sought from the Head of Department and then from the Deputy Provost (Research). The proposed conflict of interest plan/approach to be put to the Head and then the Deputy Provost (Research) must aim to protect the reputation of the academic(s), their research group(s) and the University and ensure compliance with company law; and
- if they wish to undertake a consultancy for that spin-out, they must seek prior permission from the Head of Department, and in turn from the Deputy Provost (Research). The proposed conflict of interest plan/approach to be put to the Head and then the Deputy Provost (Research)must aim to protect the reputation of the academic(s), their research group(s) and the University and ensure compliance with company
- Staff (other than researchers who are subject to the University's Intellectual Property Policy) wishing to buy or subscribe for shares in a spin-out at any stage prior to the listing of the shares in the company on a recognised Stock Exchange must seek permission in advance from the Head of Department and then from the University
- Sale, supply or purchase of goods or services
- Staff must ensure the probity of all financial The sale or supply of goods by the University or the purchase of goods or services by the University must be carried out in accordance with the University’s Financial Regulations.
- Staff should not normally be involved in supply or purchase decisions in relation to any external entity in which they or any members of their family or any person with whom they have a close personal relationship have a financial interest or in any way have the capacity for personal gain. If there are exceptional circumstances that prima facie require such involvement, the following process should be followed:
- the person should disclose, in writing to their Head of Department/ Head of Function, the nature of the transaction, the potential conflict and the method proposed to manage the conflict;
- they and their Head must formulate a proposed plan/approach that protects the University and ensures compliance with the law and the integrity of the transaction(s) and the individuals involved; and
the Head must then seek approval of that plan from the Pro Vice-Chancellor and Director of Finance.