Virginia Tech recognizes that external activities congruent with the professional expertise of faculty and consistent with the mission of the affiliated department can enhance professional development of the faculty member and enrich the academic experiences of students. Activities such as licensing of technology, consulting, or business start-ups can be critical to promoting economic development and meeting society's needs. Given these potential benefits, Virginia Tech has encouraged innovation and entrepreneurial activity in support of the broad missions of the institution.
However, the primary professional allegiance of the faculty must be, both in fact and in perception, to the university, and the primary commitment of the faculty member’s time and intellectual energies must be devoted to the education, research/scholarship, and outreach programs of Virginia Tech..
While external activities are encouraged, the integrity of the institution and of the research conducted by individual faculty members and students depends on a high degree of transparency and appropriate oversight of relationships with outside entities. Elimination or careful management of disclosed potential conflicts of interest provides assurance to research sponsors, subjects, and the broader public that possible personal gain has not influenced the design, conduct, or outcomes of the research, nor inappropriately biased decision making in other university activities.
Virginia Tech’s policies and procedures are designed to promote and safeguard the interests, integrity, and reputation of the University and its faculty and students and their research.
Overview of Virginia Tech Policies
Policy 13010: Individual Conflicts of Interest and Commitment provides policy and procedural guidance for disclosure and approval of faculty involvement with external activities. The Online Conflict of Interest Disclosure and Management System is used to disclose a relationship with an external organization and to seek advance approval for external activities or relationships with external entities on an annual basis. The annual disclosure should be updated on an ongoing basis as new activities arise. A management plan will document the agreement on how identified conflicts will be eliminated, reduced, and/or managed.
Policy 13010 must be read in conjunction with additional guidance on consulting and conflicts of interest and commitment in the Faculty Handbook, related policies such as intellectual property, facilities usage, and outside/additional employment for staff, and state and federal statutes and regulations.
Conflict of Commitment
A conflict of commitment arises when the external activities of a faculty member are so demanding of their time, attention, or focus that they interfere with the individual’s responsibilities to the university.
For more information on Conflict of Commitment, please see the relevant section of the faculty handbook.
Conflict of Interest
An individual conflict of interest occurs when a faculty member is in a position to advance one’s own interest or that of one’s family or others, to the detriment of the university.
Organizational Conflict of Interest
Virginia Tech is treated as a single contracting entity by the federal government. Multiple university relationships with the same federal sponsor may create an actual or perceived organizational conflict of interest.
Learn more regarding organizational conflict of interest.
Policy Applicability to Employees and Students
The provisions of policy 13010 requiring disclosure of potential conflicts of interest apply to all employees – faculty, staff, and employed students.
Organizational Conflict of Interest
“Organizational Conflict of Interest” exists when multiple university relationships with sponsors create an actual or perceived conflict of interest. Virginia Tech is treated as a single contractual entity in the federal contracting context.
Separate sponsored projects and their principal investigators are considered part of the overall Virginia Tech contracting entity. Hence, the involvement of one faculty member in a consulting or advisory services contract with the agency may preclude a subsequent related contract from that agency based on potential concerns that there may have been access to source selection criteria or confidential information not in the public domain in advance of an RFP or procurement, or that the organization might be evaluating its own work products and hence open to charges of biased judgment, or that the preparation of specifications or statements of work might have favored the institution.
Organizational conflict of interest applies to more than one project and may affect all current or even future sponsored research with a particular federal sponsor.