Externally Sponsored Projects Conflicts of Interest Policy
Authority: Academic Affairs and Enrollment Management
Date Enacted or Revised: July 2009; Revised March 2016; March 21, 2022
The University has obligations to protect a project from being compromised by conflicting financial interests and to protect the reputation and credibility of the University in order to ensure public trust and confidence in sponsored projects. This policy and related procedures regulate the financial conflicts of interest in externally sponsored projects.
University employees are public servants of the state of Louisiana and are required to abide by the Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics, which includes laws prohibiting conflicts of interest. Essentially, these statutes preclude public servants from participating in transactions of their employing state agency where the public servant has a personal substantial economic interest. The Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics, Louisiana Revised Statutes 42:1101-1170, may be found at http://ethics.la.gov/pub/laws/ethsum.pdf.
Those involved in proposing or implementing an externally sponsored project must disclose actual or potential conflicts of interest according to the policies and procedures detailed below. Both current relationships or interests and relationships or interests that have existed in the past three years must be reported under this policy.
Immediate family members are defined as spouses, parents, parents of spouses, siblings, spouses of siblings, children, and spouses of children.
Any financial interest is defined as an economic benefit that an employee derives from a project, or would derive if a proposal were funded, that is greater than the interest derived by a member of the general public, not counting any salary, per diem, intellectual property related benefits normally approved by the University, or other similar compensation arising solely from their University employment, position, and/or rank.
A controlling interest is defined as an ownership interest held by or on behalf of an individual or of immediate family members, individually or collectively, that exceeds 25% of the legal entity.
A potential conflict of interest occurs when there is a divergence between an individual’s private or professional interests and their obligations to the University such that an independent observer might reasonably question whether the individual’s professional actions or decisions are determined by considerations or personal gain, financial or otherwise. The existence of an actual conflict of interest depends on the details of the particular situation.
At the time a proposal is submitted, any individual who has a responsibility for the design, conduct, or reporting of activities proposed for external funding (principal investigator and all co-principal investigators) must make a reasonable search and disclose to the University all current financial interests that existed in the past three years in either of the following categories that would or might reasonably appear to be affected by the activities or to impact their work on the project or duties at the University: 1) the existence of any financial interest involving themselves, or a member of their immediate family, or 2) a legal entity or beneficial interest in a trust in which they or a member of their immediate family has a controlling interest.
Any member of the faculty or research staff who works on a project is presumed to have such a responsible role in project activities. The principal investigator or project director is responsible for determining whether or not others, such as students or project staff, have such responsibility. The principal investigator (project director) and any co-principal investigators are responsible on the Internal Proposal Approval Form.
If no reportable financial interests exist at the time the proposal is submitted, then financial interest disclosure is not required unless otherwise required by the funding agency. However, if any responsible project personnel have new or revised financial or controlling interests to report between the time the proposal is submitted and the time the project ends, then they must be disclosed as soon as they occur.
In addition, if a sponsoring agency requires higher reporting standards than those describe here, then the University will comply with the sponsoring agency’s requirements.
Submission of Forms
At the time of submission of a proposal for external funding, the principal investigator (project director) and any co-principal investigators are responsible on the Internal Proposal Approval Form for certifying that there is no conflict of interest or for disclosing the existence of possible conflicts of interest related to the proposed project. In addition, the project director is responsible for making a reasonable effort to determine whether any other project staff, including graduate and undergraduate students, has any reportable potential conflicts of interest.
Financial interests related to externally sponsored projects are recorded on the Financial Conflict of Interest Assurance and Disclosure Form, which is submitted to the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs with the Internal Proposal Approval Form and complete proposal package. This form serves to report the existence of any financial interests for any proposed or actual externally funded project. This reporting form must be submitted for the individual with the reportable conflict with any proposal for funding when such financial interest currently exists or existed in the past three years.
At any time during the proposal process or project administration when any new potential or actual financial interest arises, or when there are changes to existing potential or actual financial interest, the project director should submit a revised Financial Conflict of Interest Assurance and Disclosure Form documenting the change.
Review of Forms
The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs will forward these forms to the vice president for business affairs, who shall determine whether an actual or potential conflict exists and, if so, what conditions or restrictions should be imposed by the University to avoid, reduce, or manage the conflict in compliance with federal or state laws and University policies. Possible conditions might include public disclosure or financial interests; review or monitoring of project activities by independent reviewers; modification of the project design; disqualification from participation in all or part of the project; divestiture of substantial financial relationships; or severance of relationships that create actual or potential conflicts of interest. In making such determinations, the vice president shall seek input as appropriate from University, state or federal officials, legal counsel, or other advisors. They may also appoint an ad hoc committee to review the disclosure and to recommend a course of action. Before the vice president reaches a decision, the individuals involved, including the person with the actual or potential conflict, shall be given the opportunity to meet with the vice president (and with the ad hoc committee, if one is appointed) to discuss the actual or potential conflict and strategies for managing, reducing, or eliminating the conflict.
This policy is distributed via the Academic Advisory Council and the University Policies webpage.