Conflict of Interest FAQ

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Q.What is a conflict of interest?

A.  “Conflicts of Interest” are those situations that arise when a university employee has outside financial or managerial interests that could compromise or appear to compromise the fulfillment of professional duties, or the safety and welfare of research volunteers or students. The Kansas Board of Regents policy states, “The appearance of a conflict of interest can be as damaging or detrimental as an actual conflict.”

Q.What is a conflict of time?

A.  These exist when the majority of time spent on outside projects exceeds the amount of time spent on university responsibilities, or when primary professional responsibility is not to the university.

Q.Why is filing a conflict of interest report required?

A.  Kansas Board of Regents policy, as well as WSU policy, requires at least an annual report of potential conflicts of interest. Federal regulations also outline the procedures that must be met in order for WSU to continue to receive federal funding. This is a rapidly expanding and changing area with increasing federal oversight and compliance requirements.

Q.Who is required to file a report?

A.  Kansas Board of Regents requires that a form be completed by employees paid through WSU payroll who are:

  • Full time faculty and other unclassified staff, or
  • Any less than full time faculty or other unclassified staff who are
    • Involved in the “design, conduct, or reporting of sponsored research, and/or
    • Have an actual or potential conflict of interest or time

Also, researchers who have adjunct, student or university support staff status whose project role is at Investigator level should complete a form in order to comply with federal agency regulations.

Q. I’ve already submitted a conflict of interest form through Human Resources; do I have to complete this one too?

A.  Yes. The other form is the Kansas Statement of Substantial Interests and is administered by the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission. Unfortunately, the two forms are exclusive of each other. There has been an effort in recent years to find a way to consolidate into one form, but at this time both must be submitted.

Q.My (wife, husband, child, nanny…) works at ____________, but we don’t have any influence over each other’s work. Do I have to report this?

A.  Current recommendations are that it is best to be conservative in your reporting. Unfortunately, in today’s environment of social media and 24-7 news reporting, the facts can be twisted and an innocent relationship can be twisted into the appearance of wrong-doing. It is often the undisclosed or informal relationships that make the “great headlines”.  The question to ask is if an outside person would look at the situation and perceive the relationship as potentially a conflict.

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Conflict of Interest in the News

The following examples are taken directly from the original news sources and illustrate the increasing scrutiny that universities and researchers are under.

Research Studies Questioned because of Researcher ties to Industry:

Baucus-Grassley Investigation into Medtronic Reveals Manipulated Studies, Close Financial Ties with Researchers  - http://www.finance.senate.gov/newsroom/chairman/release/?id=b1d112cb-230f-4c2e-ae55-13550074fe86

Nemeroff Gives Up Psychiatry Chair - http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2008/12/23/under-grassleys-glare-emorys-nemeroff-gives-up-psychiatry-chair/

Credibility of UT Fracking Study & Review Panel Questioned -  http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2012/08/15/credibility-of-ut-fracking-study-review-panel-questioned/

University of Texas Will Review Gas Study After Conflict Questions Raised - http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/24/university-of-texas-will-review-fracking-study/

The Biotech Death of Jesse Gelsinger - http://www.nytimes.com/1999/11/28/magazine/the-biotech-death-of-jesse-gelsinger.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm