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Resolving or Managing Conflicts

Resolving or managing a conflict of interest

Conflicts—whether real or perceived— can undermine the integrity of UMD research and sponsored programs.

Management Strategies to minimize Research COIs: 

  • Eliminate the incentive bias (e.g., give up equity, step down from consultancy)
  • Reduce incentive bias to an acceptably low level (e.g., restrict equity)
  • Manage the consequences of the incentive bias (e.g., independent monitoring via a management plan).
  • However, while some conflicts of interest cannot be entirely avoided, they often can  be effectively resolved or managed.

To ensure this objectivity, members of the UMD community are expected to:

  • Prevent individual or institutional conflicts of interest/commitment in their assigned duties for the University;
  • Disclose potential conflicts of interest and adhere to any requirements created to manage or eliminate any conflicts of interest;
  • Ensure personal relationships do not interfere with objective judgment in decisions affecting University employment or the academic progress of a Community Member or a student; and
  • Ensure their assigned duties for the University receive their full effort, attention, and commitment.


IMPORTANT: Before writing a management plan, we strongly recommend that you contact the COI office to talk with the COI administrator and/or COI Chair about your particular situation and what documents must be submitted with your disclosure.

Management Plans must describe the means by which the conflict or potential conflict can be eliminated, reduced, or managed.

All plans must include:

  • Provide a brief description of the conflict or potential conflict of interest. 
  • Describe a management plan that will permit approval of an exemption, in accordance with the provisions of the State Ethics Law.

Please use this example template.

Other documents that may be required at the time of submission:


Sample Management Plans

COI Management Plan Risk Level Resource (PDF)

When a Conflict of Interest disclosure is approved, the COI Committee assigns a risk level of 1-Low, 2-Moderate, or 3-High. Examples of each level of risk are provided below. PLEASE NOTE: The left column highlights the perceived/actual conflict and the right column highlights possible management plan elements put in place to manage the conflict. 

Management Plans - Risk Level 1

These Management Plans present the lowest level of risk.

Conflict of Interest:

  • UMD Professor is the PI for a research project with Company X.
  • UMD Professor has an existing consulting agreement with Company X to teach two short courses and a limited number of additional hours consulting.
  • The proposed research does not relate to the educational content/consulting in any way.

Possible Management Plan Elements:

  • As long as listed as a PI or Co-PI on a UMD contract from Company X, Professor will not perform any
  • additional hours or personal consulting for Company X.
  • Professor has informed the appropriate individuals at Company X about the potential conflict, so they are aware of the possible overlap of the research project award and existing consulting agreement. 

Conflict of Interest:

  • UMD Professor is the PI on a sub-award from Company X who received the award from ONR.
  • UMD Professor began three separate consulting contracts with Company X.
  • UMD Professor is mentoring a Company X employee as well.
  • The employee is a former UMD graduate and attends meetings at UMD regarding the subaward work in order to gain experience. The employee is not paid off the subaward or the prime award. The employee is not UMD faculty or staff.

Possible Management Plan Elements:

  • UMD Professor must cease and/or cancel any formal consulting agreements during the period of performance from any subaward originating from Company X.
  • The intent of mentorship of the Company X employee is for the employee to learn about UMD’s results from the award and better understand how to transition the research. The employee has no direct influence on UMD planning or decision making. All interactions are academic in nature and focus on technical results and ideas.
  • Working together on grants does not necessarily constitute a COI; however, it does have to be disclosed independently to both the University, via routing form and COI disclosure, and the funding agencies, via proposal.
  • There is a UMD routing question regarding potential COI associated with the proposal being submitted. Those in familial relationships must check yes to potential COI and disclose each new proposal as an update in KCOI. Please understand that disclosure is not a conclusion that a COI exists, but, again, the potential COI must be disclosed, reviewed, and approved. 
  • This is the required practice and easily managed. We are not aware of any reported spousal disclosure not being approved at the University.
     

To be in compliance, you will both need to update your KCOI disclosures.

  • In KCOI, you would answer yes to the question: Are you in a position in which you supervise or have influence over another University employee with whom you have a familial or personal relationship? 
  • You will be prompted to upload a plan. An example plan is below – this was recently used for an engaged couple in another college and others around campus in the past. This is not a new procedure.
  • When you have proposals/awards, please update the chart and add to your disclosure.  
  • A typical management plan for relationships is below as well.

If both are PI and/or Co-PIs in a proposal/award, the committee may not require an oversight official, but a draft plan similar to below must be included in your disclosure.
 

Draft Management Plan:

The chart below provides updated proposal/award information for research projects that Drs. xx and xx are or will be engaged with currently. The Kuali COI (KCOI) disclosure will be updated for each future selected proposal.

COI Draft Management Plan Chart

Typical Management Plan:

The Chair of xx has agreed to provide oversight of the research involved with regard to the COI issues.

As Oversight Official, Dr. xx has agreed to the following:

  • Meeting with Drs. xx and xx, the COI Chair and/or Administrator(s), and xx department administrators to review roles, responsibilities, and expectations regarding the review. 
  • Meeting (with COI Committee members as needed) annually with students and employees on the project independently from Drs. xx and xx to brief them on the COI Management Plan and having the group sign an attestation to that effect.
    • The COI Acknowledgement Form must state that students can contact the Oversight Official if they have concerns about potential conflicts or investigators.
  • Signing off on all spending (travel, invoices, etc.) on all affected awards.
  • Meeting with Drs. xx and xx at least once a year to review their Annual Reports. 
  • Submitting reports to the COI Committee within 4 weeks of the annual review meeting to remain in compliance with this Management Plan.

 

Conflict of Interest:

  • UMD Professor is in an ownership position at Company X and serves as Company Chairman.
  • Company X wants to hire two current UMD PhD students as employees.
  • The nature of the students’ work is expected to be Quality Assurance. It is not expected that new research will be conducted.
  • PhD Student 1 – Company X and Student #1 have discussed an arrangement for the 2020 spring semester for Company to hire the student as an employee to work at their off-campus offices in lieu of receiving a Teaching Assistantship from the Department. This work may extend into Summer 2020.
  • PhD Student #2 – Company X wishes to employ UMD student #2 to work on a part-time basis at their off-campus offices. The work relates to the student’s field of study. The student was a fulltime employee prior to entry into the University’s graduate program.

Possible Management Plan Elements:

  • UMD professors cannot employ their current graduate students in their company.
  • The students cannot be actively enrolled in any of the UMD Professor’s courses
  • The UMD Professor cannot serve as either students’ Dean’s Representative on their dissertation committees while the students are employed at Company X.
  • The UMD Professor will not serve as either students’
    direct supervisor at Company X.
  • The students’ work for Company X will not utilize UMD equipment and will not be performed at UMD facilities.
  • The students will be made aware that any IP created at Company X will be owned by the company and not the students. The students will be provided with a copy of the UMD IP Policy for reference.
  • The students will be informed by the UMD COI Office to contact UMD’s Graduate Student Legal Aid Office if they have concerns about the management of this conflict.
  • All lab personnel will be provided with a COI Acknowledgement Memo (PDF) to review and sign.

Management Plans - Risk Level 2:

These Management Plans present a moderate level of risk and are typically overseen by an Oversight Official

Summary of COI: Dr. [XX], a faculty member of the [Name of Department], is in the process of forming a company to market technology that has been disclosed to UM Ventures and for which UM Ventures has filed a provisional patent application [#ZZ].  The source of funding for the work for which this COI is being disclosed is a [$$] Phase 2 Business Development Grant from the State of Maryland’s Economic Development Office (TEDCO) through their Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) Program.

[Describe the funding and how it is allocated between the company and the University].

Management Plan: This COI will be managed by direct oversight of this request by Dr. [YY]. Dr. [YY] is a Professor in the [Name of Department]. He is also familiar with the technology. Dr. [YY] will ensure the integrity of the research is upheld. Dr. [YY] will provide oversight of COI issues by conducting twice-yearly reviews of project data, financial records, and any other necessary supporting documents. Dr. [YY] will meet with students and employees on the project independently from Dr. [XX]. Any concerns raised will be reported to the campus COI Committee for review, consideration, and potential subsequent recommendations. Dr. [XX] and Dr. [YY] have signed the Oversight Official Memo, which is now on file with the UMD COI Office.

All postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, and lab members, whether involved in the research/award or not, will be made aware of this COI in writing and will sign a memo indicating their acknowledgement. These signed acknowledgement documents will be filed with the UMD COI Office and kept up to date.

Ownership/Financial Interest: Describe Interest in the Entity: The company will be jointly held with at least the following individuals: The University of Maryland will own a ~[XX]% stake in the company. The remaining [XX]% of equity in the company has tentatively been apportioned roughly as follows: [NAME] owns [XX]%, [NAME] owns [XX]%, [REPEAT FOR REMAINING INVESTORS].

Employment Interest: The company is not involved in research. It was formed to license and commercialize a technology for [XX], with a focus on the development of [XX], and conducting [XX] and providing [XX].

Summary of COI: 

Prof. [XX] is a faculty member of the [Name of Department]. [He/She] is a partner in a company, [Name of Company] that was formed to market technology for [name of technology] that [he/she] has disclosed to UM Ventures and for which UM Ventures has filed a provisional patent application.

[Name of Company] proposes to fund research in Prof. [XX]’s lab as a “fee for service.” Dr. [YY], an Associate Research Scientist, will report to Prof. [XX] for the effort related to this research project. These facilities are not available from other vendors. [Describe the activity in detail].

Management Plan: This COI will be managed by direct oversight of this request by Prof. [ZZ]. Prof. [ZZ] is the Chair of Prof. [XX]'s department.  The Chair will ensure the integrity of the work performed by Dr. [XX] is upheld. [He/She] will ensure that this fee for service activity is appropriate and does not impact the integrity of the research that Dr. [XX] conducts, which is separate from this service activity. The Chair will also serve as a resource for Dr. [YY], to ensure that Dr. [YY] works on   appropriate professional and academic interests. In addition, Dr. [YY] has been informed of the perceived conflict and has signed an Acknowledgement Memo indicating this.

All matters relating to intellectual property (IP) will be handled through standard UMD licensing agreements. No UMD employees will serve as a representative of the company regarding negotiation of IP terms or other concerns of the company. Such contact will be a violation of the Management Plan.

Conflict of Interest:

  • Professor at UMD is the PI of a MIPS Phase 1 award.
  • They also are the CEO and a majority stakeholder of Company X that is involved in the MIPS award.
  • PI serves two roles on the MIPS project: UMD PI and Company X Representative.
  • One co-founder for Company X, holds equity interest.
  • Company X has been incubated by UMD; UMD holds equity interest in Company X.
  • As UMD PI for MIPS project, a portion of the research will take place in the PI’s lab on campus.
  • Company X will hire UMD undergrads as interns.

Possible Management Plan Elements:

  • UMD Faculty cannot serve as both UMD PI and Company PI.
  • Development of a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) for the project.
  • The QAPP ensures there is an evaluation of the study design and research methodologies prior to data collection, allows for spot checking of the data collection, and validation of the analysis of data and results by an independent scientist prior to releasing to the PI.
  • PI will not be the hiring official or direct supervisor of students hired as company interns. QA Director will be the hiring official. Co-founder will serve as a direct supervisor for UMD interns on the MIPS project. PI may hire and supervise non-UMD interns.
  • Students taking PI’s courses or being advised by the PI cannot serve as interns.
  • Facilities Use Agreement must be established for Company X to use the PI’s lab space. Company X will pay UMD for use of the facilities.
  • All lab personnel will be provided with a COI Acknowledgement Memo (PDF) to review and sign.

Conflict of Interest:

  • UMD Professor has been awarded a Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) grant. The grant will lead to starting a business based on an intervention licensed from UMD.
  • Dr. X, who has substantial expertise in starting up companies and acquisition of venture capital, will be the CEO of the company started as part of the MII grant.
  • Dr. X’s company has a subaward on the MII grant for market research, as allowed and expected by the MII.
  • Dr. X is the UMD Professor’s sibling.

Possible Management Plan Elements:

  • UMD and subaward work must be kept separate. Any company created will also have its work separate from any UMD work.
  • The subaward is separate from the research in the UMD Professor’s lab and as such, none of the UMD students working in the Professor’s lab will have contact with Dr. X.
  • This conflict and the conflict associated with the project leading to the initiation of a company that is licensing technology from the university will be managed by having an Oversight Official. However, if a company is formed, the UMD Professor will be required to submit a new COI disclosure.
  • The Department Chair will serve as the Oversight Official and will conduct twice-yearly reviews of project data, financial records, and other relevant supporting documents. All subaward request forms for the company subaward and company subaward invoices will be approved by the Oversight Official.
  • All lab personnel will be provided with a COI Acknowledgement Memo (PDF) to review and sign.

Conflict of Interest:

  • UMD Professor, Co-founder, and Chief Scientific Officer at Company X.
  • UMD received a MIPS award.
  • Professor is the PI for UMD; Founder is PI for Company X.
  • The studies will be performed in Company X’s labs on campus. FUA has been approved. Company X personnel will not have access to the PI’s lab (except where stated in the approved FUA).
  • UMD personnel will not have access to Company X’s lab.
  • No personnel employed by UMD will be employed by Company X, including undergraduates, graduate students, post docs, and technicians.

Possible Management Plan Elements:

  • The Department Chair will serve as the UMD PI’s Oversight Official.
  • MIPS award - Company X is required to submit twice yearly progress reports. The Chair will be given copies of these reports prior to submission to MIPS.
  • The Oversight Official will meet with all UMD personnel at his discretion to discuss the project.
  • The Oversight Official will also be provided with copies of patent applications, conference presentations, and manuscripts to be submitted for publication prior to their submission.
  • All lab personnel will be provided with a COI Acknowledgement Memo (PDF) to review and sign.

Conflict of Interest:

  • UMD Professor, Chief Technology Officer, and founder of Company X.
  • Federal Agency has selected UMD for an award.
  • Professor is PI on the Federal Agency grant at UMD.
  • Professor owns 25% of Company X.
  • Company X will be a subawardee to UMD on the federal grant.
  • The CEO of Company X will be listed as the PI on the subaward.

Possible Management Plan Elements:

  • Company X will work on subaward work in the Company X lab.
  • IP discussions must be held with UMVentures.
  • The CEO of Company X will negotiate subaward contractual issues with UMD and sign on behalf of the company.
  • FUA will be routed if UMD facilities are needed and will be provided to COI Committee. No UMD students in UMD Professor’s lab or enrolled in their classes will be involved in Company X’s subaward.
  • All lab personnel will be provided with a COI Acknowledgement Memo (PDF) to review and sign.
  • UMD Professor’s Chair will serve as the Oversight Official for the award from Federal Agency.
  • The Oversight Official will provide oversight of COI issues by conducting twice yearly reviews of project data, financial records, and any other necessary supporting documents. Any concerns will be reported to the COI Committee.

Management Plans - Risk Level 3:

These Management Plans present the highest level of risk and are typically overseen by an Oversight Committee.

Disclosure Summary and Nature of Conflict: [Name of Company] was recently formed to commercialize [Name of Technology] developed by Professor [XX]. Professor [XX] is a founder (partial owner [XX%]) of the company and Scientific Advisor; however, Professor [XX] is not an officer of the company and has no fiduciary authority (ie. CEO, COO, President, Board of Directors, etc). Moreover, Professor [XX] does not receive any compensation to develop the technology.

[Name of Company] is submitting a [Name of Funding Agency] proposal with University of Maryland as a subcontractor. Dr. [XX] will be the PI on the UMD subcontract. Dr. [YY] (Chair of the [Name of Department]) will provide oversight on the COI issues on campus.

If the contract is awarded, [Name of Company] will subcontract with Professor [XX]’s lab at the University of Maryland to evaluate [Name of Company]'s performance degradation rates and mechanisms and try to develop approaches to minimize degradation. Dr. [XX] would oversee and supervise their work.

Developmental R&D would be performed at UMD and any resultant IP would be handled through UMD licensing agreements.

If funded, the UMD budget is about  over [ESTIMATED TIME PERIOD].

Management Plan: While Dr. [XX] has a conflict of interest, the cited management plan will provide the appropriate supervision and oversight of the proposed research efforts. Neither Dr. [XX] nor any university employee will serve as a fiduciary in [Name of Company]. Dr. [XX] is a co-owner of [Name of Company] with a [XX]% ownership share. As an employee with a conflict, if awarded a subcontract, Dr. [XX] may not serve as the Principal Investigator for the university subaward.

All matters relating to intellectual property (IP) are to be handled through standard UMD licensing agreements. No UMD employees may serve as a representative of the company regarding negotiation of IP terms or other concerns of the company. Such contact will be a violation of the Management Plan.

The Vice President for Research will appoint an Oversight Committee composed of faculty members and administrators. The oversight committee will provide oversight of COI issues by conducting semi-annual reviews of project data, financial records, and any other necessary supporting documents.  The committee will meet with students and employees on the project independently from Dr. [XX]. Any concerns raised by this committee will be reported to the COI Committee for review, consideration, and potential subsequent recommendations.

Dr. [AA] (Professor in the Department of [XX]), Dr. [BB] (Professor – [YY], Ms. [CC] ([XX] - Finance and Administration – [XX]), and Mr. [DD] ([XX] – Division of Research) will be members of this committee. If requested by the Vice President, one additional member with appropriate expertise will join this committee. The committee will hold semi-annual meetings to oversee/monitor the project and report on how they have monitored students/employees and data integrity. This report must be provided to the COI Committee during the annual review of this COI Disclosure and Management Plan.

All postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, and lab members, whether involved in the research/award or not, will be made aware of this COI in writing and will sign a memo indicating their acknowledgement. These signed acknowledgement documents will be filed with the UMD COI Office and kept up to date.

Oversight Committee Agreement (PDF)

When a Conflict of Interest disclosure is approved, the COI Committee assigns a risk level of 1-Low, 2-Moderate, or 3-High. Examples of each level of risk are provided below (click above for PDF of full document). PLEASE NOTE: The left column highlights the perceived/actual conflict and the right column highlights possible management plan elements put in place to manage the conflict. 

Conflict of Interest:

  • UMD Professor, equity holder, and founder of Company X.
  • Receives no compensation from Company X.
  • Professor is married to the Chief Science Officer at Company X.
  • Chief Science Officer is the PI of an award from a Federal Agency to Company X.
  • UMD is a subawardee on the proposal.
  • Professor will serve as Co-PI on the subaward.

Possible Management Plan Elements:

  • Professor may not serve as an officer or employee of Company X.
  • No UMD employee may receive compensation from Company X.
  • All postdocs, graduate students, and lab members involved in the research will be made aware of the COI, notified in writing, and will sign a memo indicating their acknowledgement.
  • Since the UMD Professor and Chief Science Officer (PI of subaward) are married, a co-PI on the subaward or Department Chair will be responsible for signing Subaward Request Forms for Company X as well as approving Company X invoices.
  • Students employed at UMD will not conduct research for Company X or be allowed in the company’s research facilities.
  • Any Intellectual Property (IP) will be handled through standard UMD licensing agreements.
  • Non-UMD personnel must not have access to any UMD lab space unless an FUA is in place. FUA will be routed if UMD facilities are needed and will be provided to COI Committee.
  • An Oversight Committee has been established to oversee the conflict. The committee will hold twice yearly meetings to monitor the project.
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