Administrators and the Responsible Conduct of Research
Tutorial:
Conflicts of Commitment

Conflicts of Commitment

Conflicts of commitment are generally situations in which a researcher is dedicating time to personal activities in excess of the time permitted by institutional policy, or to other activities that may detract from his or her primary responsibility to the institution. The issue here is not necessarily financial or bias in one's judgment, but rather whether one's commitment of time and effort are inconsistent with one's commitment to the institution and its interests.

Some examples of conflicts of commitment:

  1. A faculty member dedicating more than the permitted one day per week on personal consulting with a company or companies.
  2. A faculty member accepting an unpaid position on a company's Scientific Board of Advisors and having access to and/or divulging confidential information when the company is sponsoring the faculty member's research.
  3. A faculty member uses institution resources, including office or laboratory space and secretarial services in support of his or her personal consulting.

A conflict of commitment also exists with a researcherís instructional and mentoring responsibilities if he/she uses graduate students on a personal consulting project. While graduate students may be interested in the work performed on the consulting project, their participation is primarily of personal benefit to the faculty member. It is a misuse of a graduate student's time and detracts from his or her efforts to complete degree requirements. Furthermore, due to the intellectual property and confidentiality provisions included in most consulting agreements, graduate students would be unable to publish the results of their work.

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