Creating Conflict Management Plans

Before You Begin

When to Create a Conflict Management Plan

If an employee or employee-owned start-up company meets any of the criteria below, the employee and unit executive officer (UEO) must develop a Conflict Management Plan.

  • Licenses university intellectual property.
  • Employs university students or other university employees.
  • Uses university resources, such as laboratory space or equipment, office space, or computing resources.
  • Requires a significant commitment of time from the employee (e.g., greater than 30 working days per year).
  • Involves the UEO, the dean, or other senior management within a unit.
  • Funds sponsored research or gifts at the university at a level greater than one month of the employee’s salary.
  • Executes a facilities use or technical testing agreement with the university.
  • Subcontracts to the university from awards such as SBIR, STTR, DARPA on which the company is prime or accepts subcontracts from awards on which the university is prime.

In some cases, where the company has a low level of activity and none of the above conditions apply, the conflicts of interest and commitment may be managed through disclosure in the RNUA and/or an MOU between the employee and the unit executive officer (UEO). In addition to the cases of start-up companies listed above, a conflict management plan may be required if it appears necessary for any other reason, for example, if the distinction between the employee’s work for the university and his/her outside activity is not clear; even if university intellectual property is not being licensed.

Contents of Conflict Management Plans

In general, a conflict management plan will contain sections covering the following topics:

  • Background
  • Section I: Management of Employee Conflict of Commitment
  • Section II: Managing Conflicts of Interest Concerning Involvement of Other University Personnel
  • Section III: Relationship Between the Company and the Employee’s Research (or other University Responsibilities)
  • Section IV: Management of Conflicts of Interest Concerning Use of University Resources or Intellectual Property
  • Section VI: Management of Conflicts of Interest Relating to Human Subjects Research (when applicable)
  • Section VII: Review Cycle and Reporting, including list of topics for annual report to the VCR
  • Section VI: Attachments
  • Signatures: The document must be approved by the employee(s), the EO(s), the dean(s), the institute director (if applicable), the members of the Management Oversight Committee, and the Executive Associate Vice Chancellor for Research (EAVCR).

Background Information Needed From the Employee

To facilitate the development of a conflict management plan, the employee is asked to provide the following information:

  • Status of the company or other activity.
  • Status of any licensing arrangements with the university.
  • Business aims of the company or goals of other activity.
  • Expected time commitment.
  • Anticipated involvement of students or other university employees.
  • Anticipated desire to use university resources, possible technical testing, or facilities use agreement.
  • Anticipated sponsored activity between the university and the company.
  • Relationship between the employee’s university responsibilities and the outside activity.
  • Any current or potential future sponsored funding from the Public Health Service.
  • Any concerns the employee may have.

sample template is available.

Development of Conflict Management Plans

Conflict of commitment and interest management plans are developed in the unit, with the assistance of the EAVCR. When complete, they are reviewed by the Management Oversight Committee before approval by the EAVCR. If the conflict of interest issues are novel, or new management mechanisms are proposed, plans are reviewed by the Conflict Review Committee prior to approval.

Configuration of Conflict Management Plans

When multiple employees or multiple units are involved, the UEOs should be consulted to determine the best configuration for a conflict management plan or plans. For example, if multiple faculty in the same department are involved in a start-up company activity, the department may develop a single conflict management plan to cover the faculty outside activity in the company.

If multiple faculty from different departments are involved, the UEOs should be consulted to determine the best administrative home for the conflict management plan. The oversight committee should be composed of members from the various departments.

If multiple faculty are involved, and if the faculty have very different roles in the company, it may be advisable to have separate conflict management plans for each faculty member, with a common oversight committee for the activity. For example, one faculty member might be focused on biomedical applications; another on algorithm development.

If a combination of faculty and academic professionals are involved, it may be advisable to have separate conflict management plans for each individual with a common oversight committee. University responsibilities and expectations for faculty and academic professionals are generally different, and the management mechanisms should be appropriate to the individual situation.

Administration of Conflict Management Plans

Under our policy, the UEO of the individual’s home department is responsible for approval of outside activities and conflict management. However, situations may arise where it is advisable to administer the conflict management plan in another unit. Some examples follow. The EAVCR works with the UEO to determine the best course of action.

When a faculty or staff member is housed in a research institute on campus, with the agreement of the home UEO, the institute director and staff may assume the responsibility for conflict management. This provides local oversight of research activity. It is in the institute’s interest to make sure conflicts are managed for grant activity that takes place in the institute. The UEO of the home department(s) should still approve the conflict management plan.

When a UEO is conflicted, the conflict management may move to the college or may be delegated by the college to the head of another unit.

If the dean is conflicted in his/her oversight role, the provost will work with the EAVCR to develop a strategy for conflict management that does not include the dean.

If the dean has a conflict of interest requiring management, the provost and EAVCR will work together to create a conflict management plan and oversight committee of deans and peer faculty as appropriate.