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Academic Affairs Policies
Procedures Implementing Board of Regents Policy on Conflicts of Interest in Research or Development
Academic Affairs | Approved August 1, 1997
Revised August 2012; April 2015
Maryland law encourages public senior higher education institutions such as University of Maryland, Baltimore ("UM" or "University") to promote State economic development and to increase their financial resources through arrangements with the private sector, including collaborative research and development, commercial application of institution-owned intellectual property, and provision of technical assistance to the business community. UM strongly supports this expressed public policy.
The Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland ("System") has adopted a Policy on Conflicts of Interest in Research and Development ("Policy";http://www.usmd.edu/regents/bylaws/SectionIII/III111.html ) in response to the enactment of the Maryland Public-Private Partnership Act ("Act") in 1996. The Act amended the Maryland Public Ethics Law ("Law") to allow exemption of System personnel from some of the Law's conflict of interest provisions. The Policy, as required by the Act, specifies that UM and other institutions of the System shall adopt procedures implementing the Policy and Act. These procedures ("Procedures") are adopted for that purpose.
By complying with the Procedures, faculty (including academic administrators) and staff in some cases can attain exemption from section of the Law which otherwise would be violated through relationships between faculty and businesses which have other relationships with the University. Examples of such relationships include consulting agreements, equity ownership by University employees, holding office or board membership in companies, and dual employment by UM and private businesses where these relationships are necessary to carry out the activities authorized under the Act. A relationship subject to the Law which is not approved in accordance with the Act and conducted consistent with any conditions of approval may violate the Law, as determined by the State Ethics Commission.
Faculty and staff are encouraged to inquire, through the Conflict of Interest Officer described in these Procedures, whether specific relationships fall under the Law and require exemption under these Procedures in order to be lawful relationships. The President of UM and other campus personnel involved in reviewing exemption requests must be mindful both of the public policy goal to encourage economic development and research and development and of the underlying policy of the Law, stated in Section 5-102 of the General Provisions Article, Annotated Code of Maryland.
"the people have a right to be assured that the impartiality and independent judgment of [the State's] officials and employees will be maintained...It is evident that this confidence and trust is eroded when the conduct of the State's business is subject to improper influence or even the appearance of improper influence."
UM has established means by which confidence and trust in the skill and judgment of its faculty and staff can be maintained by adherence to principles which will guard against improper influence or the appearance of improper influence. General principles are set forth in these Procedures. Individual cases can and will be evaluated carefully to determine whether the principles are appropriate or whether different safeguards are needed. In all cases, disclosure of conflicts of interest and potential conflicts of interest will be required. Through disclosure, the UM community and the State can be aware of the benefits being attained through exemptions to the Law and of the guidelines being imposed by UM and followed by its employees and officers as conditions of exemptions.
Open Academic Environment - All activities in which faculty engage should guarantee an open academic environment in which faculty can pursue new knowledge and share the results. Students should be provided with the opportunity to participate in the research as part of their academic training program.
Appropriateness of Research - Research performed using University resources should be appropriate for an academic environment and enhance the goals and mission of the institution.
Freedom to Publish - All research projects undertaken at UM require faculty and students to have the freedom to publish results, but provide ability to delay appropriately in order to protect UM's intellectual property by various mechanisms including the filing of patent applications.
Misuse of Students and Employees - UM students and employees shall not be misused for the benefit of any entity which is a party to a Relationship.
Use of University Resources - University facilities and resources should be used for teaching and research and should not be used for routine tasks of a commercial character. Costs of the use of University facilities in the performance of sponsored research should be recovered from the sponsor.
Disclosure - A fundamental principle of these procedures is full and complete disclosure of potential conflict of interest.
Consistency with Obligations to University - Potential conflicts may be monitored and managed consistent with the purposes of the Law and the Act. But outside activities of an official or employee must not interfere with the primary commitment to the mission of UM or the completion of assigned responsibilities. These policies and procedures for conflict of interest evaluation must be consistent with the Board of Regents of the University of Maryland System Policy on Professional Commitment of Faculty (BOR II-3.10), which addresses external commitments and general conflict of interest concerns for faculty, and related UM and School policies.
Oversight of Relationships - UM will monitor approved Relationships through such means as review of consulting agreements and other contractual arrangements with outside entities to verify that such contracts are consistent with UM and System policies and do not compromise the intellectual property rights of UM and the System. Further, UM will require that faculty and staff equity interests in entities which are parties to Relationships, or which are sponsoring research at UM involving the same faculty and staff, are subject to escrow agreements and/or other restrictions prohibiting sales or transfers of such interests which give the appearance of a conflict of interest.
A present or former official or employee of UM may have a Relationship with an entity engaged in research or development, or an entity having a direct interest in the outcome of research or development, which relationship would otherwise be prohibited by the conflict of interest provisions of the Law, if the Relationship is disclosed by the official or employee, reviewed by UM, and approved by the President of UM, in accordance with these Procedures.
The President or a Vice President of UM, or an UM official holding a similar position identified by the Regents in the future as subject to this provision, may have such a relationship only if the Board of Regents makes the following findings:
(1) That participation by, and the financial interest or employment of, the official is necessary to the success of the research or development activity; and
(2) that any conflict of interest can be managed consistent with the purposes of relevant provisions of the Law.
Consistent with the Act, UM may not approve exemptions to Section 5-505 of the Law ("Solicitation or acceptance of gifts or honoraria"). Further, no official or employee of UM may be authorized to (1) represent a party for contingent compensation in any matter before the Board of Regents or before the State's Board of Public Works, or (2) intentionally misuse his or her position with UM for personal gain or for the gain of another person.
It is a condition of UM employment that any disapproved Relationship be discontinued within a reasonable time, as determined by the President. It is a condition of UM employment that any conditions upon approval of a Relationship be accepted by the official or employee of UM and the entity involved in the Relationship.
Merely filing for an exemption pursuant to the Act does not create an exemption from the Law. An official or employee who enters into a Relationship without prior consideration of an exemption request does so at his own risk.
A Relationship which is not approved may be reviewed by the State Ethics Commission pursuant to its authority under the Law. If the Commission determines that the Relationship would not be a violation of the Law, the exemption request is moot.
III. Conflicts of Interest Described in the Law
All employees and officers of UM are expected to be familiar with the general prohibitions on conflict of interest stated in the Law. Copies of the relevant parts of the Law can be provided to any faculty member by the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, the Office of Research and Development. Faculty and other employees also can obtain copies of the relevant parts of the Law from University Counsel and by consulting the Annotated Code of Maryland in public libraries or the University of Maryland Carey School of Law Library. It is beyond the scope of these Procedures to set forth the text of the law. Detailed information about the Law can be obtained from the State Ethics Commission. In order to assist officers and employees in determining whether it is necessary to review the Law in detail, its provisions are outlined in Appendix A to these Procedures.
1. It is the responsibility of each official or employee to request approval of any Relationship. Relationships or proposed Relationships shall be disclosed promptly to the COI Officer, using the appropriate disclosure form, the Exemption Request Form Disclosing Conflict of Interest Related to Research or Development ("Form") found at:
For a faculty member or member of research staff, the Form shall be routed to the COI Officer after review and approval by the faculty member's division head, chair and dean, as applicable. For other employees, the Form shall be routed to the applicable dean or vice president, if any, and then to the COI Officer. If a Relationship involves the sponsor of a proposed research project, the disclosure should be made at the time the research proposal is routed. The COI Officer shall file copies of disclosures with the State Ethics Commission, and shall maintain the forms in a public record file at UM.
2. An updated Form also must be filed at such time(s) as there is material change in the facts related to the Relationship, and annually beginning one year from the date of the initial approval under these Procedures. A terminal report is required upon the ending of a Relationship.
3. The disclosure made on or with the Form shall fully describe the Relationship and provide such other information as may be required for Department Chair and Dean approval, and any additional requirements of the Conflict of Interest Officer, the Committee, or the COI Official.
4. The COI Officer, following any needed consultation with administrative staff, counsel, or others, and with the COI Official, shall review each disclosed Relationship and determine what further information must be disclosed and suggest what restrictions should be imposed in order to manage, reduce, or eliminate any actual or potential conflict of interest. The COI Officer shall advise the COI Official, who shall decide, whether the Relationship represents a Harmful Interest. If it does, the COI Official shall recommend that the President deny approval of the Relationship.
5. The COI Officer or the COI Official, following any procedures established by the Chancellor, may consult with the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development as appropriate to evaluate economic development justifications for Relationships.
6. In considering Relationships, the COI Officer and the COI Official, and the President, shall take into account the following guidelines:
a. When faculty members are involved in research and economic development programs, the faculty and the institution have a joint obligation to ensure that the faculty activities, statements, evaluations, recommendations, and documentation of research/economic development programs do not improperly give advantage to an entity with which they have a Relationship.
b. The institution and its faculty members involved in research and economic development programs shall ensure that unauthorized statistics, documents, reports, comparison information and other data are not disclosed in a manner that gives improper advantage to an entity with which the faculty have a Relationship.
c. Faculty Relationships with entities which hope to test and/or market products developed in UM laboratories or tested by UM will be subject to the UM Policy on Technology Licensing Involving Equity and Associated Sponsored Research and the UM Uniform Consulting Agreement Provisions.
7. The COI Official often will consult the COI Advisory Committee as to matters relevant to a Relationship, including but not limited to: the suitability of the guidelines or any one or more of the guidelines; the appropriateness of alternative guidelines proposed by the person disclosing the Relationship; the resolution of differences of opinion between the individual and the COI Officer or the individual and the individual's supervisors.
8. Each disclosed Relationship will be approved or disapproved by the President, with such determination to be the final decision. In granting approval, the President may include conditions recommended during the review process under the Procedures as well as any conditions recommended by deans or other academic administrators in order to assure that an employee's professional commitments to UM are fully recognized by the employee during the Relationship.
9. Any Relationship of the President or a Vice President, or a UM employee holding any other position designated by the Board of Regents as requiring its review shall be disclosed to the COI Officer, who shall gather relevant information as described above, and forward the information to the COI Official. [As of December, 1996, the Board of Regents has not designated other positions to require such review.] The COI Official (if not the requesting employee) shall forward the information to the Chancellor, together with a recommendation to approve or disapprove the Relationship. If the COI Official is the requesting employee, the President shall forward the information to the Chancellor, together with a recommendation to approve or disapprove the Relationship. The Board of Regents, pursuant to the Policy, shall act upon such recommendations, and the Board's decision will be implemented by UM. The Board of Regents will notify the State Ethics Commission of any approvals granted by the Board under this section of these Procedures and the related section of the Policy. Should the Commission disagree with a Board approval, and so notify the Board within 30 days of receipt of the Board's notice of approval, the Board will reconsider the exemption request.
10. The COI Officer shall: (a) send to the State Ethics Commission disclosure forms for approved exemptions; (b) assemble the quarterly reports required by the Policy, supplementing the information required with a summary of the number of Relationship disclosures and the number of Relationships which have been disapproved, with an indication of the reasons for disapproval; and (c) shall assist University System of Maryland Headquarters as requested in developing additional reports or analyses concerning implementation of the Act.
11. Approval of a Relationship under these Procedures does not relieve an employee's continuing obligation to adhere to other aspects of University System of Maryland and UM policies, including the Board of Regents' Policies on Patents, Copyrights and Professional Commitment of Faculty, or the obligation to adhere to provisions of the Maryland Public Ethics Law which are applicable notwithstanding the exemption granted through the approval of the Relationship.
V. Advisory Committee
1. The COI Advisory Committee shall have nine voting members appointed by the President. The COI Officer shall provide administrative staff support to the COI Advisory Committee.
2. Five members of the Advisory Committee shall be UM faculty members, at least three of whom shall be tenured faculty, one of whom will be designated as chair of the Committee. The Committee shall include one community representative and the Director of the Office of Sponsored Programs Administration, who will be voting members. Two members of the Committee shall be UM employees who are not faculty but who have responsibilities in research administration (e.g., research department administrators, associate deans with research administration responsibilities). Advisory Committee members other than the Director of Sponsored Programs shall serve for two-year terms, except that four of the original members will be appointed for initial one-year terms.
3. The COI Advisory Committee is encouraged to seek information and advice from appropriate UM administrators, who will be invited to attend all Committee meetings. These administrators are: University Counsel or an Assistant Attorney General assigned as counsel to UM; the Director of the Office Technology Transfer; and the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs.
4. The COI Advisory Committee will make its recommendations based on a majority vote of the members in attendance. Five members constitutes a quorum for conduct of business.
5. The COI Advisory Committee will state its recommendations in writing to the COI Official, who may consult the COI Officer in regard to any additional information requirements of the COI Official or the President.
General Provisions Article, Title 5, Subtitle 5
This section includes prohibitions such as: an official or employee may not participate in a matter if he or a close relative has an economic interest in the matter, or if a party to the matter is a business entity in which the official or employee has a direct financial interest, or a business entity of which the official or employee, or a close relative, is an officer, director, trustee, partner, or employee, or a business entity with which the official or employee or a close relative has or is negotiating an employment relationship.
[THIS IS NOT A COMPLETE SUMMARY OF THIS SECTION.]
An official or employee may not be employed by or have a financial interest in an entity that is negotiating or has entered a contract with the governmental unit which employs that official or employee.
[THIS IS NOT A COMPLETE SUMMARY OF THIS SECTION. UM is the governmental unit which employs the persons subject to these Procedures and the Policy.]
An official or employee may not be employed by an entity that is a party to a contract that binds or purports to bind the State if the duties of the official or employee include matters substantially relating to or affecting the subject matter of the contract and the contract binds or purports to bind the State to pay more than $1,000.
Officials or employees may not, for contingent compensation, represent or assist a party in any matter before or involving any unit of the State. The restriction applies to former officials and employees as to matters in which they participated significantly as officials or employees.
A public official or employee may not intentionally use the prestige of office or public position for the official's or employee's private gain or the gain of another.
An official or employee may not disclose or use confidential information acquired by reason of the person's public position, and not available to the public, for personal economic benefit or for the economic benefit of another.
This section regulates participation in State procurement, as vendor, by persons who participated in drafting of specifications, etc. It is too lengthy to summarize here.
A. "Act" or "Public-Private Partnership Act" means Section 5-525 of the General Provisions Article, Annotated Code of Maryland.
B. "COI Officer" means the UM employee designated to administer review of exemption requests pursuant to these Procedures.
C. "COI Official" means the Vice President for Academic Affairs, UM.
D. "COI Advisory Committee" or "Committee" means a UM committee, as described below, which can be invited to advise the President concerning Relationships.
E. "Harmful Interest" means an interest which is found to be so influential as to impair impartiality in the conduct of research, the interpretation of the results of research, and/or the determination of research or other professional and employment priorities.
F. "Law" means the Maryland Public Ethics Law, Title 5, General Provisions Article, Annotated Code of Maryland.
G. "President" means the President, UM.
H. "Relationship" means any interest, service, employment, gift or other benefit or relationship with an entity that would be prohibited by the Law if not disclosed and approved pursuant to the Policy and these Procedures. "Relationship" includes any relationship of the spouse or other relative of an officer or employee of UM if such relationship creates restrictions on the officer or employee under the Law.
I. "Research or development" means basic or applied research or development, and includes the development or marketing of university-owned technology or intellectual property, the acquisition of services of an official or employee by an entity for research and development purposes, or participation in State economic development programs.
Research need not be sponsored research in order for Relationships with interested entities to be subject to the Policy and these Procedures.