Business

Navigating conflict of interest

Maintaining the highest standards

The University is committed to maintaining the highest standards in the conduct of its business.  This requires everyone associated with the University to conduct themselves with integrity, impartiality, honesty and professionalism at all times, and to avoid any conflict arising between their official University duties and their private interests.

How does the University define a conflict of interest?

A conflict of interest (COI) occurs when there is a divergence between an individual’s private interests and his or her professional obligations to the University, such that an independent observer might reasonably question whether the individual’s professional actions or decisions are determined by considerations of personal gain, financial or otherwise. A conflict of interest depends on the situation, and not on the character or actions of the individual.

What kind of issues concern conflict of interest reviewers?

Typically, reviewers are concerned with whether or not a researcher or faculty member can separate University research from company research; provide unbiased and appropriate guidance and support to students; maintain academic integrity in research and education; and adhere to government-mandated policies.

What are examples of conflict of commitment?

Conflicts of commitment usually involve issues of time allocation. Whenever an individual’s outside consulting activities exceed the permitted limits (normally 30 days per year), or whenever a full-time faculty member’s primary professional loyalty is not to Queen’s, a conflict of commitment exists. The best approach is to fully disclose your situation to your line manager and discuss the implications for your University responsibilities.

How does the university manage conflict?

Members of staff are personally responsible for disclosing potential conflicts of interest and/or commitments.  Staff should, in the first instance, disclose the potential conflict to his/her Line Manager.

Staff should also ensure that they are familiar with the policy and the related reporting and approval procedures.

To enable the University to safeguard against potential conflicts of interest, the Registrar’s Office maintains an institutional Register of Interests. It is the responsibility of all individuals to ensure that their entry on this Register is current and properly reflects their personal circumstances. 

Maintenance of the Register is facilitated via the electronic proforma which is accessible under the ‘My Services’ section on Queen’s Online.  “Nil” responses are also required in order to ensure that a full and accurate central database is maintained.

When should I seek guidance on conflict of interest?

Whenever a question or uncertainty arises, you should seek guidance from your Line Manager.

There are two commercial scenarios in particular when potential conflicts of interest may arise - when research proposals in which you have a financial interest are submitted to external sponsors and when a licence is being considered with a company in which you have an additional financial relationships (e.g. equity, sponsored research or consulting).