East Carolina University Faculty Manual



VII.  Institutional Conflict of Interest


East Carolina University, from time to time, forms relationships with profit-making entities (including the holding of equity interests) for mutual benefit.  However, such relationships may put the University into actual or apparent conflict of interest situations when accepting grants or contracts from the profit making entities for research or other activities.  (See exclusion at the end of this section for certain types of relationships.) To assure that these grants and contracts are performed with the highest level of integrity by University employees and to assure that the public maintains it trust in University activities, the following procedures shall be followed:


1.      At the beginning of each calendar year, the Director, Office of Technology Transfer shall prepare a disclosure listing all profit-making entities in which the University has a significant financial interest (See Section IX.4). This disclosure shall be updated during the year as new relations develop and old ones terminate.  This disclosure and its updates will be submitted to the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies who shall distribute the disclosure to the Chancellor, the other Vice Chancellors and Deans, and the Research Ethics Oversight Committee. Copies of the disclosure and updates shall also be distributed to those university administrative offices charged with approving and administering grants and contracts and human subjects research protection  (Office of Sponsored Programs, Office of Grants and Contracts Administration and the UMCIRB).


2.      Units submitting proposals for external funding to commercial entities may not be aware of possible institutional conflict of interest issues.  Thus, the Office of Sponsored Programs shall have the primary responsibility of notifying Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies and the submitting unit of the University’s conflict of interest as part of its regular procedures for the review and approval of such applications.   The Vice Chancellor or his designee shall then develop a plan to manage the institutional conflict of interest after consultation with the submitting unit and other relevant university offices.  The conflict management plan shall be submitted to the Research Ethics Oversight Committee for review.  The Committee may approve the plan (with or without mandatory changes) or disapprove the plan.  University acceptance of grants and contracts related to a management plan is contingent upon approval of the management plan by the Committee.  A negative decision of the Committee may be appealed to the Chancellor.   An institutional conflict management plan may range from a simple disclosure of the University’s interest in publications and reports emanating from the grant or contract to complete University divestiture of the financial interest. The institutional conflict of management plan shall be separate from and in addition to any conflict management plans for conflicts of interests of individuals (e.g., the principal investigator) involved in the grant or contract.


3.      When considering an institutional conflict of interest management plan, the Research Ethics Oversight Committee shall a) include as voting members, one or more individuals from the general public who have no direct or indirect relationship with the University, i.e., the individuals and their spouses or other dependents must not be current employees or students of the University; and b) recuse from the deliberations of the Committee any ECU member of the Committee who has been involved in the negotiation, approval, or implementation of the relationship that is the basis of the actual or perceived conflict of interest.  The general public members of the Committee should be individuals that have sufficient education or experience to understand both the issues before the Committee and the possible impacts of the Committee’s decisions on the general public.


4.      Arrangements for plan implementation and oversight shall explicitly be part of an institutional conflict management plan.  Implementation and oversight will usually be the joint responsibility of the submitting unit and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies.  However, other arrangements shall be made for plan implementation and oversight if, in the judgment of the Research Ethics Oversight Committee, such arrangements are necessary for the effective management of the conflict.  


Excluded Relationships:  A relationship with a profit making organization for the purposes of this institutional conflict of interest policy shall not include ordinary investments of the university’s endowment that are managed by the Board of Trustees of the Endowment Fund or ordinary client-vender relationships where the University contracts for specific goods or services from a profit-making organization.