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Conflict of Interest Overview

Externally sponsored research is a vital part of UMBC’s mission. As this activity grows in sophistication and complexity, it increasingly intersects with entrepreneurial ventures creating the potential for conflicting interests.

Maryland law and USM policy encourage public higher education institutions to promote economic development in the State and increase their financial resources through private sector relationships. UMBC is dedicated to the highest ethical and professional standards of conduct and complies with all applicable laws and regulations related to all University affairs. As such, UMBC has created a Code of Ethics for all members of the campus community to observe for maintaining the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct while practicing honesty and integrity that comply with applicable laws and regulations.

Federal funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation (“NSF”) and the Public Health Service (“PHS”) encourage economic development.  Moreover, they have taken a lead role in establishing standards to ensure there is no reasonable perception that the design, conduct, or reporting of research funded under PHS or NSF grants or cooperative agreements will be biased by any conflicting financial interest of an investigator.  Other sponsors have applied the same standards to their awards. Relationships covered under these standards may include any type of reimbursement or payment, ownership through stocks or options by the investigator or the investigator’s family, as well as collaborative research and development, or commercial application of institution-owned intellectual property and creative works.

UMBC has policies to meet conflict of interest regulatory requirements:

 – Public Health Service (PHS) Funding

PHS funded investigators must follow the UMBC procedures for implementing the UMBC III-1.11.02 Interim Policy on Conflicts of Interest in PHS Research. Investigators involved with non-profit organizations funded by PHS must also follow PHS COI regulations.

 – Non – Public Health Service (PHS) Funding

Investigators funded by non-PHS funds must follow UMBC’s procedures for implementing the UMBC Policy UMBC III-1.11.01 – Policy on Individual Conflicts of Interest in Research & Product Development.

 – Federal Agency Conflict of Interest Policies related to the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards – the “UG”

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued new guidance, effective December 26 2014, called the “Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards – the “UG”. This guidance addresses how specific agencies will deal with individual and institutional COI’s as they relate to procurement and subawards. Click this link for a current list of federal agency conflict of interest implementation the UG. Also, read updates and recommendations from the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) on UG implementation.

Organizational Conflicts of Interest

Organizational Conflicts of Interest may exist when UMBC, in its activities or relationships with other entities in the performance of a federal contract, is unable to render impartial assistance or advice to the federal government, cannot perform federal contract work in an objective way, or has an unfair competitive advantage compared to other entities. Prior to engaging in a contract, UMBC will work researchers to disclose potential OCI concerns and create a mitigation plan, if necessary, to prevent or manage circumstances related to biased ground rules, impaired objectivity or unequal access to information (FAR Subpart 9.5).

Resources for Creating Conflict of Interest Management Plans

The ORPC will work with researchers to identify methods and means to manage, reduce or eliminate conflicts of interest. We’ll assist in developing sample language of public disclosure of conflicts of interest to journals, disclosure to subordinates or students (in management plans), divest financial interests that present conflicts of interests, as well as language for human research consent documents. We’ll also draft a conflict of interest management plan (see our template) to document how conflicts can be managed, reduced or eliminated. For more information what tools we use, please view examples from other institutions here and here.

Research compliance feedback and reporting research concerns

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