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Rice University Research Policy No. 332-96

 

DISCLOSURE POLICY FOR REPORTING SIGNIFICANT FINANCIAL INTERESTS RELATED TO PROPOSED OR FUNDED PROJECTS FROM THE NSF OR PHS  

APPLIES TO RESEARCHERS SUBMITTING REQUESTS OR IMPLEMENTING FUNDED PROJECTS FROM THE NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION OR THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE  

The scope of this policy is limited to the implementation of new federal guidelines and does not contain any additional measures regarding conflict of interest over and above these requirements.

 

Background:  

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Public Health Service (PHS) have issued new regulations to ensure that the integrity of the research process is not biased or compromised by conflicting financial interests of investigators.

These new regulations require that investigators disclose to a designated university official(s) certain significant financial interests that would reasonably appear to be affected by the proposed research or educational activities. Based on the disclosed information, the University is held responsible for determining whether a conflict of interest exists. A conflict of interest exists when it is determined that a significant financial interest could directly and significantly affect the design, conduct, or reporting of the research or educational activity. When a conflict is identified, the University is required to develop and implement a plan to manage, reduce or eliminate the conflict prior to the expenditure of any funds on the grant or contract. The University must also comply with certain reporting requirements to the sponsoring agency related to the existence of conflicts and conflicts which cannot be resolved.

Definitions  

Investigator means the principal investigator, co-principal investigator(s), and any other person at the institution who is responsible for the design, conduct, or reporting of research or educational activities funded or proposed for funding by the National Science Foundation or the Public Health Service.

Significant financial interest means anything of monetary value, including but not limited to:

a) Salary or other payments for services (e.g., consulting fees or honoraria).

b) Equity interest (e.g., stocks, stock options or other ownership interests).

c) Intellectual property rights (e.g., patents, copyrights and royalties from such rights).

Significant financial interests do not include:

a) Salary, royalties or other remuneration from the applicant's institution.

b) Any ownership interests in the institution, if the institution is an applicant under the Small Business Innovation Research Program or Small Business Technology Transfer Program.

c) Income from seminars, lectures or teaching engagements sponsored by public or nonprofit entities.

d) Income from service on advisory committees or review panels for public or nonprofit entities.

e) An equity interest that, when aggregated for the investigator, the investigator's 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 represent more than 5% ownership interest in any single entity.

f) Salary, royalties or other payments that, when aggregated for the investigator and the investigator's spouse and dependent children, are not expected to exceed $10,000 during the next twelve month period.

Policy:  

It is the policy of Rice University that University investigators must disclose significant financial interests that would reasonably appear to be affected by the research or educational activities funded or proposed for funding by the NSF or PHS.

Disclosure Requirements:  

Investigators must file disclosures of significant financial interests to his/her divisional dean prior to submitting proposals to the NSF or PHS. Deans and vice-presidents submitting proposals will file disclosures with the next higher level of authority. A "Disclosure of Significant Financial Interests" Form has been developed for this purpose. This disclosure will be treated as confidential information and used only for compliance with Federal regulations regarding conflict of interests. Records of investigator financial disclosures and of actions taken to manage conflicts of interest shall be retained for 3 years following the termination or completion of the award to which they relate, or the resolution of any government action involving those records, whichever is longer.

During the period of an NSF or PHS funded project, investigators must file an updated disclosure form to the divisional dean (or next level of authority as applicable) at the time annual reports to the president are submitted or when a new reportable significant financial interest arises.

Disclosure Review:  

Disclosures shall be reviewed by divisional deans prior to initiating expenditures from grants and contracts awarded by the NSF or PHS. Divisional deans will determine whether a conflict of interest exists and how such conflicts may be managed, reduced or eliminated. A conflict of interest exists when the divisional dean reasonably determines that a significant financial interest could directly and significantly affect the design, conduct or reporting of the funded or proposed research or educational activities.

The designated reviewing official for deans and vice-presidents shall be the next higher level of authority.

Management of Conflict of Interest/Enforcement Mechanisms:  

In cases where conflicts of interest are identified, the divisional dean will have responsibility for developing a plan, acceptable to both the investigator(s) and the University, to manage, reduce or eliminate the conflict of interest. No funds will be expended prior to the development of this plan. For new conflicts that arise during an active grant or contract, an acceptable plan must be developed within 60 days.

In the case of proposals involving investigators from two or more divisions, the cognizant divisional deans will jointly determine whether or not a conflict of interest exists and if any conflicts are identified, how they will be managed, reduced or eliminated.

If the divisional dean determines that imposing conditions or restrictions would be either ineffective or inequitable, and that the potential negative impacts that may arise from a significant financial interest are outweighed by the interests of scientific progress, technology transfer or the public health and welfare, then he/she may authorize the research to proceed without such conditions or restrictions in the case of NSF funded research. This exception does not apply the PHS grants.

The designated reviewing official for deans and vice-presidents shall be the next higher level of authority.

Examples of conditions or restrictions that may be imposed to manage, reduce or eliminate a potential conflict include but are not limited to:

Public disclosure of significant financial interests.

Monitoring of research by independent reviewers.

Modification of the research plan.

Disqualification from participation in the portion of Federally-funded research that could be affected by the significant financial interests.

Severance of relationships that create conflicts.

False reporting will be handled in accordance with the following Rice University policies:

Reporting requirements:  

Prior to the expenditure of any funds on grants/contracts resulting from proposals submitted to the NSF or PHS on or after October 1, 1995, the divisional dean or higher level reviewing official shall notify the Director of the Office of Sponsored Research of any conflicts of interest and their resolution or non-resolution.

In accordance with specific agency regulations, the Office of Sponsored Research will notify the NSF and PHS in writing of all identified conflicts of interest, including those which the University is unable to satisfactorily manage, reduce or eliminate. Additional reports or information required by these granting agencies will be provided.

Requirements for subgrantees/subcontractors.  

PHS regulations extend to subgrantees and/or subcontractors (including commercial entities); accordingly, Rice will require subrecipients to submit an assurance certifying that they are in compliance with the substance of this policy prior to the submission of proposals.

Attachment A

Attachment B

See also "Outside Activities of Faculty and Staff Members: Conflicts of Interest" (#216-90) .
 

Policy No. 332-96
January 9, 1996