Current version: August 22, 2012
Establishes guidelines for implementation of agency requirements related to
financial disclosures by faculty members and other key personnel involved with
submitting proposals and notifications to agencies in the event a financial conflict of
interest (FCOI) is identified.
Stanford's Faculty Policy on Conflict of Commitment and Interest establishes requirements for faculty disclosures (on both an annual and a transactional/ad hoc basis) of personal financial interests and professional relationships related to their institutional responsibilities, and for annual certifications of policy compliance. Stanford's policy also requires that faculty members seeking funding from an external sponsor comply with the disclosure requirements of the sponsor. Faculty are also responsible for identifying whether others in the research group have personal financial interests related to the proposed work and if so, promptly communicating the details of these interests to an appropriate conflict of interest administrator for evaluation and possible management.
In addition to requirements for an institutional policy on conflict of interest, several federal agencies have their own requirements for disclosures related to their sponsored research projects; these include the Public Health Service (PHS) and related components [note], such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as the National Science Foundation (NSF). This policy provides specific guidance related to the requirements of those agencies. For related policies, see RPH 4.1, 4.3 and 4.4.
PHS requires that, for each proposal submitted to that agency, the PI and any other person, regardless of title or position, who is responsible for the design, conduct, or reporting of research (Investigators) certify that he or she has appropriately disclosed any Significant Financial Interests (SFI) related to his or her institutional responsibilities to Stanford. These SFI disclosures must be updated at least annually and within thirty days of entering into a new relationship with a company/organization or discovering or acquiring (e.g., through purchase, marriage or inheritance) a new SFI. Before an award can be accepted, Stanford must determine 1) if the SFI is related to the Investigator's research responsibilities and to the specific research award in question; 2) if the SFI creates an FCOI; and 3) if an FCOI is determined to exist, then a Management Plan detailing how the conflict will be managed, reduced or eliminated must be developed and implemented. At Stanford, each School will handle this responsibility for its own Investigators, relying on the annual (OPACS) and transactional/ad hoc disclosures submitted by faculty as required by Stanford's Faculty Policy on Conflict of Commitment and Interest (RPH 4.1).
PHS components including the NIH require that Investigators disclose to a designated representative of the institution all SFIs that would reasonably appear to be related to the Investigator's institutional responsibilities which include: research and other scholarly activities; clinical care activities; teaching or educational activities; and administrative activities.
SFI means a financial interest consisting of one or more of the following interests of the Investigator (and those of the Investigator's spouse/domestic partner or dependent children) that reasonably appear to be related to the Investigator's institutional responsibilities:
- With regard to any publicly traded entity, a significant financial interest exists if the value of any remuneration received from the entity in the twelve months preceding the disclosure and the value of any equity interest in the entity as of the date of disclosure, when aggregated, exceeds $5,000;
- With regard to any non-publicly traded entity, a significant financial interest exists if the value of any remuneration received from the entity in the twelve months preceding the disclosure, when aggregated, exceeds $5,000, or when the Investigator (or the Investigator's spouse or dependent children) holds any equity interest;
- Intellectual property rights and interests (e.g., patents, copyrights), upon receipt of income related to such rights and interests that is not paid through Stanford.
An FCOI means an SFI that could directly and significantly affect the design, conduct, or reporting of PHS-funded research.
Principal Investigators must complete a Proposal Development & Routing Form (PDRF) in order to document that all requirements related to the submission of a funded research proposal have been met. One requirement is for Stanford to ensure that if there are personal financial interests related to the funded research, these relationships are examined and dealt with according to institutional and funding agency policies on conflict of interest. A personal financial interest with an entity would be reasonably considered related to an investigator's research study in circumstances such as the following:
If a related financial interest exists, the PDRF links to questions about personal financial interests that may reasonably appear to be related to the research project (see Attachment A to this policy for PDRF questions).
Upon receipt of an award from the Public Health Service and prior to the expenditure of any funds, as well as within 60 days for any interest that the Institution identifies as conflicting subsequent to the Institution's initial report under the award, Stanford is obligated to notify the sponsoring institute or agency of any FCOI associated with that award. In addition Stanford will provide annual updates on any previously-identified FCOI for the duration of the research project. If an FCOI is identified at the time a proposal is submitted, and that proposal is subsequently awarded, or if an FCOI is identified subsequent to the award of the project, Stanford must prepare a notification to the eRA Commons FCOI Module. That notification is to consist of the following:
Public Accessibility: Prior to the expenditure of funds, Stanford will make certain information concerning FCOIs held by senior/key personnel is publicly accessible via a Web site or by a written response to any requestor within five business days of a request or as required by law.
Investigator Training: Each Investigator must have completed the Stanford web-based training prior to engaging in research related to any PHS-funded grant. Training must be renewed at least every four years.
Subawards: If an institution carries out agency-funded research through subawardees, contractors, or collaborators, the institution must take reasonable steps to ensure that the collaborating entity has its own policies in place that meet the requirements of the PHS policy or that investigators working for such entities follow the policies of the primary institution.
NSF requires Stanford to maintain an appropriate written and enforced policy on conflict of interest and that all conflicts of interest for each award be managed, reduced or eliminated prior to the expenditure of the award funds. If an institution carries out agency-funded research through subawardees, contractors, or collaborators, the institution must take reasonable steps to ensure that the collaborating entity has its own policies in place that meet the requirements of this policy or that investigators working for such entities follow the policies of the primary institution.
As provided by Stanford’s Faculty Policy on Conflict of Commitment and Interest (RPH 4.1), NSF requires that each investigator disclose to a responsible representative of the institution all significant financial interests of the investigator (including those of the investigator’s spouse and dependent children) (i) that would reasonably appear to be affected by the research or educational activities funded or proposed for funding by NSF; or (ii) in entities whose financial interests would reasonably appear to be affected by such activities.
The term “investigator” means the principal investigator, co-principal investigators/co-project directors, 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 NSF.
As specified by NSF, the term “significant financial interest” (SFI) means anything of monetary value, including, but not limited to, salary or other payments for services (e.g., consulting fees or honoraria); equity interest (e.g., stocks, stock options or other ownership interests); and intellectual property rights (e.g., patents, copyrights and royalties from such rights).
The term does not include:
- salary, royalties or other remuneration from the applicant institution;
- income from seminars, lectures, or teaching engagements sponsored by public or non-profit entities;
- income from service on advisory committees or review panels for public or nonprofit entities;
- an equity interest that, when aggregated for the investigator and the investigator’s spouse and dependent children, meets both of the following tests: does not exceed $5,000 in value as determined through reference to public prices or other reasonable measures of fair market value, and does not represent more than a 5% ownership interest in any single entity; or
- salary, royalties or other payments that, when aggregated for the investigator and the investigator’s spouse and dependent children, are not expected to exceed $5,000 during the twelve month period.
NOTE: Although current NSF regulations specify a higher threshold for SFI than PHS (NIH), Stanford policy identifies $5,000 as the monetary threshold. Similarly, in non-publicly traded companies, PHS and Stanford policy identify any equity amount as the threshold.
NSF requires Stanford to ensure that investigators have provided all required financial disclosures at the time the proposal is submitted to NSF. Stanford must also ensure that those financial disclosures are updated during the period of the award, either on an annual basis, or as new reportable significant financial interests are obtained.
Stanford designates individuals to review financial disclosures, determine whether a conflict of interest exists, and determine what conditions or restrictions, if any, should be imposed by the institution to manage, reduce or eliminate such conflict of interest. A conflict of interest exists when the reviewer(s) reasonably determines that a significant financial interest could directly and significantly affect the design, conduct, or reporting of NSF-funded research or educational activities.
Examples of conditions or restrictions that might be imposed to manage, reduce or eliminate conflicts of interest 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 the NSF-funded research that would be affected by significant financial interests;
- divestiture of significant financial interests; or
- severance of relationships that create conflicts.
Stanford must have adequate enforcement mechanisms, provide for sanctions where appropriate and must keep NSF’s Office of the General Counsel appropriately informed if the institution finds that it is unable to satisfactorily manage a conflict of interest. Grantee notifications of conflict of interest that cannot be managed, reduced, or eliminated must be submitted electronically via the NSF FastLane system by the Dean of Research Office.
Stanford must maintain records of all financial disclosures and of all actions taken to resolve conflicts of interest for at least three years beyond the termination or completion of the grant to which they relate, or until the resolution of any NSF action involving those records, whichever is longer.