Financial Conflict of Interest Policy for the National Science Foundation

Policy

This policy and the implementation procedures apply to research, educational, or service projects funded by the National Science Foundation either directly to the Kennesaw State University Research and Service Foundation or through another institution or organization by a subaward.

a. Definitions

  1. Conflict of Interest – A conflict of interest exists when the university reviewer(s) reasonably determines that a significant financial interest could directly and significantly bias the design, conduct, or reporting of the federally-funded research, educational, or service activities.
  2. Investigator – Investigator means the Principal Investigator, Co-Principal Investigators(s), co-project directors, and any other person(s) responsible for the design, conduct, or reporting of research, educational, or service activities funded, or proposed for funding. Interests of the investigator that would constitute a conflict of interest include interests of the investigator’s spouse and dependent children.
  3. Institution – Any domestic or foreign, public or private, entity or organization (excluding a Federal agency).
  4. Research – A systematic investigation designed to develop or contribute to knowledge. The term encompasses basic and applied research and product development.
  5. Significant Financial Interest – Significant financial interest means anything of monetary value, including but not limited to:
    • Salary or other payments for services (e.g., consulting fees or honoraria), or income generated by the manufacture or sale of products;
    • Equity interests (e.g., stocks, stock options or other ownership interests); or
    • 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;
  • Any ownership interests in the institution, if the institution is an applicant under the Small Business Innovation in Research program;
  • Income from seminars, lectures, or teaching engagements sponsored by public or nonprofit 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, (1) does not exceed $10,000 in value, as determined through reference to public prices or other reasonable measures of fair market value, and (2) does not represent more than a five percent ownership interest in any single entity (both conditions must be met); or
  • Salary, royalties, or other payments that, when aggregated for the investor and the investigator’s spouse and dependent children over the next 12 months, are not expected to exceed $10,000.

Procedures

Compliance with the federal regulations requires that investigators disclose a listing of significant financial interests (and those of his/her spouse and dependent children) that would reasonably appear to affect the research or educational activity funded, or proposed for funding, or in entities whose financial interests would reasonably appear to affect such activities.

  • Disclosures – Disclosures must be made to the designated university official prior to the submission of a proposal for funding. This official will review the disclosures and determine which, if any, financial interests could directly and significantly affect the design, conduct, or reporting of the research. The institution must, prior to any expenditure of awarded funds, comply with the conflict of interests reporting requirements of the funding agency.
  • Disclosures Process – Financial disclosures must be updated at least annually during the award period and more frequently as new reportable significant financial interests are obtained. The procedural steps for this policy are as follows:
  1. Investigators are required to complete the Disclosure Questionnaire for Significant Financial Interests. If the investigator does have activities to report that may constitute a conflict of interest, the Statement of Significant Financial Interest must also be submitted in a sealed envelope marked CONFIDENTIAL. Forms should be forwarded to the Office of Research at the same time the proposal is submitted for the administrative review process.
  2. The Director of Proposal Development will review the proposal and disclosure questionnaire only and forward the questionnaire and the sealed envelope containing the Statement of Significant Financial Interest to the Vice President for Research, the designated university official. Disclosure questionnaires will be retained within the investigator’s proposal file in the Office of Research.
  3. After a grant application has been submitted, and prior to the acceptance of an award, the Vice President for Research will review all financial disclosures, determine whether a conflict of interest exists, and if so, determine what conditions or restrictions, if any, should be imposed by the institution to manage, reduce, or eliminate such conflicts.
  4. Concurrent with the foregoing process, the investigator, in cooperation with the investigator’s department chair and dean, shall develop and present to the Vice President for Research a resolution plan that details proposed steps that could be taken to manage, reduce, or eliminate any actual or potential conflict of interest presented by a significant financial interest. This plan will be seriously considered in the determination of appropriate action. Examples of conditions or restrictions that might be imposed include, but are not limited to:
    • Public disclosure of significant financial interests;
    • Monitoring of the research or project by independent reviewers;
    • Modification of the research or educational plan;
    • Disqualification from participation in all or a portion of the research or educational activity;
    • Divestiture of significant financial interests; or
    • Severance of relationships that create actual or potential conflicts.
  5. Should the investigator disagree with the proposed conditions or restrictions, he/she may appeal the decision. The Vice President for Research will convene a review committee comprised of three to four faculty representing a cross section of disciplines and a research administrator to hear the appeal. The committee will review the disclosed potential conflicts and either concur with the previous resolution plan or suggest amendments based upon supporting documentation and agency regulations. Final resolution of conflict of interest questions will rest with the President of Kennesaw State University.
  6. The approved resolution plan shall be incorporated into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between KSU and the investigator that details the conditions or restrictions imposed upon the investigator in the conduct of the project or in the relationship with the business enterprise or entity. The MOU shall be signed by the investigator, the department chair/unit head, the dean, and the Vice President for Research.
  7. If the Vice President for Research determines that imposing the conditions or restrictions would be either ineffective or inequitable and that the potential negative impacts that might arise from a significant financial interest are outweighed by interests of scientific progress, technology transfer, or the public health and welfare, then he/she may recommend that, to the extent permitted by federal regulations, the research go forward without imposing such conditions or restrictions.
  8. Prior to expenditure of any funds under an award, the university will comply with reporting requirements of the sponsoring agency concerning the existence of a conflict of interest. The investigator will update any financial disclosures at least annually throughout the period of the award or more frequently as new reportable significant financial interest is obtained.
  9. For any interest that the institution identifies as conflicting subsequent to the institution’s initial report under the award, the report will be made and the conflicting interest managed, reduced, or eliminated, at least on an interim basis, within 60 days of that identification.
  10. Records of investigator financial disclosures and of actions taken to manage actual or potential conflicts of interest shall be retained by the Vice President for Research for at least three years beyond the completion of the grant or longer if required by the agency.
  11. The university agrees to make information available, upon request, to the sponsoring agency regarding all conflicts of interest for the specified PI identified by the institution and outlining how those interests have been managed, reduced, or eliminated to protect the project from bias.
  12. If an investigator violates this policy or the terms of the MOU, the Vice President for Research will recommend appropriate sanctions to the President of the university. If failure to comply has biased the design, conduct, or reporting of the funded research or educational activity, the institution will promptly notify the awarding agency of the corrective action taken or to be taken. The awarding agency may take action or refer the matter to the institution for further action.
  13. Collaborators/sub-recipients/subcontractors from other academic/not-for-profit institutions must either comply with this policy or provide a certification from their institutions that they are in compliance with federal policies regarding investigator significant financial interest disclosure and that their portion of the project is in compliance with their institutional policies.