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Memorial University of Newfoundland

  Memorial University of Newfoundland

Conflict of Interest

Approval Date: 2013-12-05

Effective Date: 2017-11-14

Review Date: 2019-12-05

Authority:

The President

Principle

Memorial University of Newfoundland (the University) fosters a climate that encourages its people to be creative and innovative, while seeking to achieve the highest possible quality in delivery of programs, services and the research it conducts, striving for excellence at all times. As a place of learning, the University encourages its faculty, staff and students to be broadly involved in professional interests and activities compatible with the University's mission, values and commitments. Occasionally, the best interests of the University and the personal interests of its Members may conflict, or may be perceived to conflict.

The University holds itself to the highest ethical standard and recognizes that accountability and transparency are essential for its operation. It is the ethical responsibility for everyone who acts on behalf of the University to ensure that decisions and actions that affect the University are taken in the best interests of the University and are not influenced by personal interests. To maintain public and professional trust and confidence, the University must deal with real, perceived or potential conflicts of interest in an open, fair, consistent and practical way.

Purpose

To set out the University's position on real, perceived or potential conflicts of interest and to provide processes and mechanisms to address these, so that the University and its external constituencies can be confident decisions and actions are not inappropriately influenced by personal interest. The policy is intended to be complementary to other policies and collective agreements governing the conduct of Members.

Scope

All Members of the University.

Definitions

Academic Supervisor — A person who is or has been the academic supervisor of an undergraduate honours thesis/project, or graduate, postdoctoral or research studies.

Conflict of Interest — A conflict of interest exists in any situation where there is a potential divergence between a Member's personal interests and his or her obligations to the University such that an independent observer would reasonably question whether the Member's behavior or decisions are in any way motivated by considerations of personal interest, financial or otherwise. A conflict of interest may be real, perceived or potential.Real conflict: At least three prerequisites have to be established before a Member can be said to be in a real conflict of interest. They are:

Perceived conflict: A perceived conflict of interest exists when there is a reasonable apprehension, which reasonably well-informed persons could have, that a conflict of interest exists.Potential conflict: A potential conflict of interest is one that may develop into a real or perceived conflict. The potential for conflict exists as soon as the Member can reasonably foresee that he or she has a private interest that may be sufficient to influence a public duty or responsibility. It may be real or perceived.A conflict of interest does not necessarily imply wrongdoing as a conflict of interest depends upon the circumstances and not on the character of a Member. In addition, the presence of a real, perceived or potential conflict of interest does not necessarily preclude the involvement of the Member, but it does mean that the conflict shall be disclosed by the Member, and allowed and managed or disallowed, and any decision recorded appropriately.

Family Associate — A person who is related to the Member by blood or adoption, or is or has been related to the Member by marriage or common-law marriage.

Financial Interest and Financial Benefit — The receipt or expectation of anything of monetary value, including pay or salary or other payments for services (e.g., consulting fees, bonuses, speaker's fees, advisory board remuneration, finders or recruitment fees, or honoraria), equity interests (stocks, stock options or the like), security or other ownership interests, and intellectual property rights (e.g., patents, copyrights, royalties or carried interests or options related to such rights).

Member — Any person who teaches, conducts research, studies or works at or under the auspices of the University and includes, without limitation:

Outside Activity — Any activity outside a Member's work with the University that involves the same or similar specialized skill and knowledge that a Member uses in his or her work with the University and includes, but is not limited to, the ownership and operation of a business, consulting and advisory services.

Personal Associate — A person with whom the Member has or has had in the previous five years, a financial, intimate or other close relationship.

Professional Associate — A person with whom the Member has or has had within the previous five years, a close or substantial professional relationship and includes, but is not limited to, a relationship of mentor, co-author, research collaborator or research investigator or employment supervisor of the Member.

Unit Head — This term includes Heads of Departments, Divisions or Schools, Deans, Directors, Executive Directors, the University Librarian, the University Registrar, Associate Vice-Presidents, Vice-Presidents and the President. For the purposes of this policy, the Unit Head for the President shall be the Chair of the Board of Regents.

University — Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Policy

(1) Each Member has a duty to assess his/her own interests, involvement and activities and to report any real, perceived, or potential conflicts of interest. In assessing this duty, Members should take care to disclose activity that a reasonably informed observer might conclude to be in conflict with a Member's duties to the University.

(2) Members are referred to the examples of CONFLICT OF INTEREST SITUATIONS below for greater certainty. When a situation arises that creates, or may be perceived to create, a conflict of interest for the Member, he/she must disclose this prior to engaging in any activities. Such disclosures shall be made in writing. Time is of the essence in disclosing. If the Member is uncertain whether he/she is in conflict of interest, a conflict of interest exists, or is likely to exist, he/she should seek clarification from his/her Unit Head pursuant to the Procedure for Disclosing and Assessing Conflicts of Interest. It may be necessary that an activity be placed on hold pending an assessment.

(3) A Member shall not participate in an activity or decision that involves a real, perceived or potential conflict of interest unless such activity or decision has been disclosed to, and approved by, the Conflict of Interest Committee and if such approval has been given, any terms or conditions made by the Committee are fulfilled.

(4) Any Member who is aware of, or has reasonable grounds to believe, that an undisclosed conflict of interest exists for another Member shall pursue the matter by one or more of the following ways:

(i)  Raise the matter with the Member involved in the alleged conflict of interest and refer him/her to this Policy;

(ii)  Raise the matter with the Unit Head of the Member involved in the alleged conflict of interest if it appears that the Policy has not been followed by the Member, or where raising the issue with the Member is inappropriate in the circumstances; and/or

(iii)  Report the matter under the provisions of the Protected Disclosure policy.

(5) Any referral for advice and direction will be assessed in a timely and fair manner by the University in accordance with the Procedure for Disclosing and Assessing Conflicts of Interest.

(6) A conflict of interest may, in certain cases, be permitted when it can be managed in a way that protects and serves the integrity and interests of the University, including its ethical, legal and contractual obligations, and will stand the test of reasonable and independent scrutiny.

(7) Assessing real, perceived or potential conflict of interest requires the collection, use, possible disclosure and retention of personal information as defined in the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Privacy Act. The University will conduct all conflict of interest activities pursuant to this Policy in compliance with these Acts and with the University's Privacy policy.

(8) Records created as a result of actions under this Policy will be under the management of the Office of the President.

Non-Compliance

Failure to comply with the provisions of this Policy will be pursued under applicable collective agreements, employment contracts, codes or other University policies and may result in disciplinary action. The University reserves the right to recover any profit or financial benefit obtained by a Member as a result of non-compliance.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST SITUATIONS:

Conflict of interest situations may take many forms. A limited set of examples is provided below.  This list is far from exhaustive and the list itself is not to be construed as restrictive of the scope of conflict of interest situations or scenarios.

(i)   Interest in a Research, Business, Contract or Transaction

Entering into, involvement in, or influencing of an agreement on behalf of the University including a research, business or other contract, a business arrangement, licensing agreement, purchasing agreement, or any other transaction with a company, organization, firm or individual in which the Member, or a Family Associate or Personal Associate of the Member has or has had within the previous five-years, a personal interest.

(ii)   Influencing Purchase of Equipment/Materials or Services

Influencing the purchase of equipment, materials or services on behalf of the University from a company, organization, firm or individual in which the Member or a Family Associate or a Personal Associate of the Member has a personal interest.

(iii)   Acceptance of Gifts, Benefits or Financial Favours

Accepting gifts or gift certificates valued in excess of $250 from one source in a fiscal year from individuals or firms with which the University does business or with which it is contemplating doing business.

Members may not accept cash or cash equivalents, in-kind services, excessive discounts, shares, excessive entertainment, or loans on preferential terms.

(iv)   Use of Information

Using for personal or professional gain information which a reasonable person would view as privileged or confidential that is acquired as a result of the Member's University-supported activities, or communicating this information to those not authorized to receive it. Such information might include knowledge of any forthcoming developments requiring the selection of a contractor or bulk purchases. Other examples may include unreasonably delaying publication of research results or the premature announcement of research results.

(v)   Use of Students, University Personnel, Resources or Assets

Directing University students or personnel to carry out work for the Member or his/her company, organization, or firm in which the Member or a Family Associate or Personal Associate of the Member has a personal interest. University-approved work term/placements are exempt from this provision.

Using University resources or facilities without appropriate approval to benefit a private concern in which the Member or a Family Associate or Personal Associate of the Member has a personal interest.

(vi)   Involvement in Personnel Decisions

Participating in the recruitment, appointment, re-appointment, tenure review, hiring, promotion review, performance evaluation, renewal of contracts, discipline matters, compensation or benefits decisions, committee decisions, leave requests, expense claims or other personnel decisions or recommendations involving or regarding a person where the  Member:

Participating in the reviewing of grants involving a person where the Member:

(vii)   Academic Program Decisions Affecting Students

Participation by a Member in decisions to admit a student to a program or course; to provide instruction or supervision; to award prizes, scholarships, financial assistance or other benefits; to award teaching or research assistantships, where the Member:

(viii)   Evaluation of Student's Academic Work

Participating in the evaluation of a student's academic work where the Member:

(ix)   Involvement in Compliance Decisions Affecting Students

Participation by a Member in decisions to determine compliance with University policies or codes and/or to determine sanctions for any violation thereof, where the Member:

(x)   Advancing of Outside Interests for Personal Gain

Primary examples include: Entering into a research contract with a company in which the Member or a Family Associate or a Personal Associate of the Member has a financial interest; Redirecting the Member's sponsored research program to serve the business, research or development needs of a non-sponsoring company, organization, or private firm in which the Member or a Family Associate or Personal Associate of the Member has a personal interest; Entering into a licensing or business agreement for the development of intellectual property, generated as a result of University research with a company, organization or private firm in which the Member or a Family Associate or Personal Associate of the Member has a personal interest.

(xi)   Undertaking of Outside Activity

Undertaking outside activity: (a) that conflicts with the Member's duties or responsibilities to the University or (b) that will or is likely to negatively influence or affect the Member in carrying out the Member's duties or responsibilities to the University.

In the case of the Marine Institute: Undertaking an outside activity by employees of the Marine Institute for activities which otherwise would be undertaken by the Marine Institute or by clients of the Marine Institute.

All Members have the obligation to review the terms of any employment,  including any applicable collective agreement or contract of employment, to ascertain any provisions regarding outside activities.

(xii)  Political Activity

Members have the right to freedom of expression and association and to become involved in political activities.  However, there may be limited circumstances in which a Member's involvement in a political activity constitutes a real, perceived or potential conflict of interest.

(xiii) Conflict of Commitment

Participation in external activities or commitments that are substantial and that negatively impact or may reasonably be seen to negatively impact on a Member's performance of his/her duties and responsibilities to the University.   Conflict of commitment includes being simultaneously employed by the University and by an external employer where the external employment obligations negatively impact on one's ability to fulfill all terms and expectations of employment at the University or where the external employment obligations or responsibilities may conflict with the mandate, priorities or operation of the University.

(xiv)   Other

The above list of examples of conflict of interest situations is not complete and Members should be aware that there are other situations for which conflict of interest may exist. In such situations, Members should seek advice pursuant to the Procedure for Disclosing and Assessing Conflicts of Interest.

Related Documents

Protected Disclosure policy
Telecommunications policy
Purchasing policy
Tangible Asset Administration policy
Ethics in Research Involving Human Participants policy
Integrity in Scholarly Research policy
Gift Acceptance policy
Memorial University of Newfoundland Procedures Governing The Appointment, Review, Promotion And Tenure of Academic Administrators April 2, 2014
Terms of Reference - University Conflict of Interest Committee
Terms of Reference - Marine Institute Conflict of Interest Subcommittee
Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form

Procedures

For inquiries related to this policy:

Office of the President (709) 864-8212

Sponsor: General Counsel

Category: General

Previous Versions:

There is at least one previous version of this policy. Contact the Policy Office to view earlier version(s)

Approval Date 2013-12-05   Effective Date 2015-02-05
Approval Date 2013-12-05   Effective Date 2013-12-05
Approval Date 2009-03-31   Effective Date 2009-03-31
Approval Date 0000-00-00   Effective Date 1996-01-01

Procedure for Appeal of Conflict of Interest Decisions

Approval Date: 2013-12-05

Responsible Unit: Office of the General Counsel

Where a Member is not in agreement with a decision made by the University COI Committee or the Marine Institute Sub-Committee, he/she may appeal the Committee's decision in writing normally within 30 calendar days to the appropriate Vice-President.  In the written appeal, the appellant shall outline the grounds for his/her appeal, and submit the supporting documentation that was provided to the Committee.  If there is new supporting documentation provided in the appeal, the University COI Committee or the MI Sub-Committee shall be provided with a copy of the new supporting documentation and will be provided with an opportunity for comment.

The appropriate Vice-President may seek advice following a review of the appellant's submission. In addition, the appropriate Vice-President may meet with the Member.

The appropriate Vice-President will render a decision, in writing, within 30 calendar days of receipt of the appeal.


Procedure for Disclosing and Assessing Conflicts of Interest

Approval Date: 2013-12-05

Responsible Unit: Office of the General Counsel

1. Disclosing Conflicts of Interest

1.1 Each Member has the duty to assess on an on-going basis the nature of his/her circumstances with respect to real, perceived or potential conflict of interest. If a Member is uncertain whether a conflict of interest exists or is likely to exist, the Member must seek the advice of the Unit Head who may consult with the Chair of the applicable COI Committee.  In cases where a Unit Head has advised a Member in writing that a conflict of interest exists or is likely to exist and the Member refuses or fails to provide disclosure to the Committee in a reasonable time period, the Unit Head may advise the Committee.

1.2 Each Member, with the exception of the Unit Heads, the Associate Vice-Presidents, Vice-Presidents and the President, shall disclose, using the Conflict of Interest Disclosure form, to his/her Unit Head any real, perceived or potential conflict of interest that exists or might reasonably be perceived to exist. Where the Unit Head shares in the same conflict of interest, both parties shall disclose this in accordance with Section 1.6 below.

1.3 Where the real, perceived or potential conflict of interest relates to research involving the use of human subjects, see also Section 2. below.

1.4 Disclosure shall be made in each of the following circumstances, where appropriate:

1.4.1 As soon as any situation arises that creates, or may be perceived to create, a conflict of interest for a Member;
1.4.2 As required in any annual report of a Member's activities or plans or both;
1.4.3 Where required by a particular grant or contract;
1.4.4 Where otherwise required in accordance with the Conflict of Interest Policy.
1.4.5 When requested in writing by the Unit Head. 

1.5 Potential conflicts of interest which may be averted by avoidance of the situation or by absenting oneself from the discussion/decision (e.g., those which may arise during committee meetings) shall be disclosed verbally in the particular situation. If such situations arise at committee meetings, the Member shall declare the potential conflict, absent him/herself from the meeting. This shall be recorded in the minutes of the meeting.

1.6 In situations where the Unit Head is asked for advice regarding a potential conflict of interest, a record of the advice shall be submitted to the appropriate COI Committee or Sub-Committee.

1.7 The Unit Head shall consider the particulars of the situation as described in the Conflict of Interest Disclosure form and make a recommendation in writing as to the determination of whether a conflict of interest exists; whether it will be allowed to continue or must be disallowed; and, if it is to be allowed, what conditions, if any, should apply. The Unit Head submits this written recommendation along with the Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form to the University COI Committee or in the case of situations at the Marine Institute, the Marine Institute COI Sub-Committee.

1.8 In the case of the Unit Heads, disclosure shall be made, as appropriate, to the Dean, Director, Associate Vice-President or Vice-President.   In the case of the Associate Vice-President receiving a disclosure, he/she shall absent him/herself from the COI Committee's deliberations and the appropriate Vice-President shall act in his stead.  

1.9 In the case of the Vice-Presidents and the President, disclosure shall be made to the Chair of the Board of Regents.

2. Disclosing Conflicts of Interest - Research Involving Human Subjects

2.1 Each Member shall disclose any real, perceived or potential conflict of interest that arises in the course of application for research funding, receipt of research funding, or in the carrying out of research. Where the research involves the use of human subjects, the disclosure should be made to the applicable Research Ethics Board, in accordance with the Ethics of Research Involving Human Participants Policy.

2.2 The applicable Research Ethics Board will issue a written decision to the Member who has declared the real, perceived or potential conflict of interest, with a copy to the Office of Research and either the University COI Committee or the Marine Institute COI Sub-Committee, as appropriate, setting out the issues assessed during the review and the reasons for the decision. Where the decision is to manage the conflict, a process for doing so will be set out.

2.3 If there are aspects of the project that involve matters other than research on human subjects i.e. not within the jurisdiction of the Research Ethics Board, for example, employment relationships, which could involve a conflict of interest, the Member should follow the steps outlined in Section 1 Disclosing Conflicts of Interest above as well. In these situations, the COI Committee or the Subcommittee will report its decision to the applicable Research Ethics Board.


Procedure for Handling Conflicts of Interest

Approval Date: 2009-03-31

Responsible Unit: Office of the General Counsel

1. The University COI Committee or the Marine Institute COI Sub-Committee, as appropriate, receives the Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form from the Unit Head, considers the particulars of the situation including the recommendation from the Unit Head and decides whether a conflict of interest exists; whether it will be allowed to continue or must be discontinued; and, if it is to be allowed, what, if any, conditions should apply.

2. The applicable COI Committee or Sub-Committee shall determine the course of action that is in the best interests of the University. In making this determination, it will take into account the following factors:

2.1 the degree to which the proposed action would be detrimental to the integrity of the University;
2.2 any possible harm to the University or its Members, officers or others acting on its behalf if the conflict is allowed;
2.3 any possible harm to clients of University services, or others served by the University, if the conflict is allowed;
2.4 the extent to which the proposed action or activity may be managed through an appropriate protocol
2.5 whether reasonable alternative arrangements are possible which do not create a conflict of interest;
2.6 the educational, research, economic and other interests of the University;
2.7 the rights and interests of the University Member;
2.8 the impact on the Member's ability to satisfy his or her obligations to the University;
2.9 the consequences to the University if the conflict of interest is not allowed;
2.10 the consequences to the University if the conflict of interest is permitted to continue; and
2.11 the degree to which it may compromise an investigator's professional judgment in conducting or reporting research.

3. The COI Committee or Sub-Committee may request from the Member additional information that relates directly to and is necessary to assess and decide the real, perceived or potential conflict. The Committee may seek advice before making a decision relating to a real, perceived or potential conflict of interest.

4. The applicable COI Committee or Sub-Committee have the right to impose terms and conditions before permitting a conflict of interest to continue.

5. In all cases, the Committee or Sub-Committee will issue a written decision to the Member who has declared the real, perceived or potential conflict of interest. The written decision will include the reasons for the decision. Where the decision is to manage the conflict, a process for doing so will be set out.

6. Once a decision has been made, Members are obliged to report any change of circumstances which could impact the initial decision in writing to the Unit Head using the Conflict of Interest Disclosure form. The original decision may be reversed or varied by the applicable COI Committee or Sub-Committee.