UNLV faculty engage in a broad range of scholarly and professional activities beyond our campus. As a research university, we take pride in these activities and regard them as a reflection of the high esteem that others have for the expertise and abilities of our scholars and teachers.
At the same time, those activities may in some cases constitute, or be perceived to constitute, conflicts of interest or conflicts of commitment, which are regulated under federal regulation, state law, and NSHE Board of Regents policy. As the Executive Vice President and Provost, and the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, we are charged to ensure full compliance with all legal reporting and disclosure requirements. We fulfill this responsibility jointly through the UNLV Conflict of Interest/ Compensated Outside Activity policy and procedures.
Since 2008 when the Board of Regents adopted the policy on Scholarly and Professional Outside Compensated Services (as Title 4, article 3, section 9 of the Handbook), this procedure has consisted of two parts. The first part is prior approval by the supervisor of outside scholarly or professional services to ensure that a faculty member taking on outside service opportunities is not creating a conflict of financial interest or conflict of time commitment (as defined by federal regulations for federally funded investigators and by state law and NSHE Board policy for all UNLV employees). The second part is an annual disclosure of outside financial interests (by type of activity and time, rather than amount of compensation) required of all state employees.
For the past year, the Offices of Research Integrity and of Faculty, Policy and Research have been jointly studying our longstanding procedures in light of federal guidelines and NSHE reporting requirements. Based on study of national best practices, consultation with the Deans' Council, Faculty Senate Executive Committee and full Faculty Senate, and the Administrative Leadership Development seminar (of department chairs, school directors and associate deans), the procedures have been revised for this fall (effective November 1 of this year) to ensure full compliance with federal, state and NSHE requirements while seeking to minimize the burden for faculty and staff. The policy itself has not changed, and the principal changes to the Rules and Procedures are as follows:
- A new and simplified form has been introduced for academic and administrative faculty to use for obtaining supervisor approval prior to engaging in scholarly or professional services for an outside entity. This form is available from both the Provost and Research websites. Academic and administrative members should complete and submit a form for each activity (i.e. each contract or on-going service relationship with an external entity). Completed approval forms are considered confidential personnel documents and are to be submitted to a faculty members' department chair or school director, or if not in an academic department, to the dean's office, or if not in an academic college, to the relevant vice president's office. Specific instructions will be posted the COI website prior to November 1.
In the case a supervisor is concerned that an activity will pose a potential conflict of interest or conflict of commitment, the form includes a space for the faculty member and supervisor to develop a written "management plan" to enable the faculty member to pursue the activity.
- The Conflict of Interest Committee has been expanded to include two additional tenured faculty members, and the charge of this Committee will be expanded to serve as an appeals panel in the cases in which the faculty member and supervisor cannot agree to a management plan, or in which the relevant dean or vice president does not approve of the proposed management plan. In effect, this creates an instance for an appeal previously not available to faculty members seeking supervisor approval to engage in outside professional or scholarly services.
- The annual disclosure of potential conflicts of interest, previously due to supervisors in paper form by October 1, will now be made in late January for the prior calendar year, and a secure, confidential online survey will be used for this purpose. The solicitation to complete the survey will be sent electronically to all academic and administrative faculty in January, with instructions on how to complete the confidential online survey.
An important aspect that remains unchanged is that, as per federal regulations, federally funded investigators who receive from an external entity (i.e. paid by any entity other than the university) any compensation or benefit (including travel or accommodation reimbursement) in the amount of $5000 or greater must disclose that financial interest in the annual disclosure to be eligible to receive federal funds. Each federally funded investigator is required, under federal guidelines, to disclose such outside compensation and have it reviewed by the institutional Conflict of Interest committee to ensure a conflict of interest does not exist between the outside income and the federal grant or contract. That review is a requirement for federal funds to be transferred to the University.
For those interested in a more detailed summary of the new procedures, please consult this document which was distributed to deans last month. Additionally, those interested in consulting the relevant federal, state and NSHE governing documents on this matter may review, this summary with excerpts. And, again, interested faculty are encouraged to consult the full UNLV Conflict of Interest/ Compensated Outside Activity policy and procedures.
The Research Integrity and Faculty, Policy and Research offices are currently undertaking informational discussion and training for unit supervisors, deans, and vice presidents in preparation for the this new procedure becoming effective November 1. Deans, vice presidents and chairs are being asked to review the new form and procedures with faculty. This updated procedure and new form is intended to impart greater efficiency and integrity to the approval process, which is in turn essential to ensure faculty are legally protected when undertaking outside compensated service and that the University retains its eligibility for federal funds. It is therefore an essential piece of the infrastructure of our efforts to advance to a Tier 1 research university.
We ask your cooperation and your full participation and engagement in UNLV's conflict of interest/ outside compensated service program, and we urge you to direct any questions or concerns first to your chairs, deans or vice presidents and secondly to the relevant University offices, the Research Integrity Office (for questions concerning federally funded investigators) and the Office of Faculty, Policy and Research (for faculty who are not recipients of federal funds or for questions about use of the forms or document handling).
John V. White
Executive Vice President and Provost
Vice President for Research and Economic Development