Conflict of Interest in Research and Development
Policy Owner: President
University of Maryland University College (UMUC) encourages innovation through research and development, and in furtherance of such innovation UMUC may at times collaborate with external entities. The State Ethics Law in recognizing the positive impact of collaborative research and development, allows for the exemption of USM personnel from some of that law's conflict of interest provisions, which otherwise would preclude such activities, provided that USM and USM institutions adopt policies and procedures that meet the specified requirements.
In accordance with University System of Maryland (USM) III-1.11 Policy on Conflicts of Interest in Research or Development, USM VIII-15.00 Policy on High Impact Economic Development Activities, and the State Ethics Law, in addition to other existing USM and UMUC policies on professional commitment of faculty, outside consultancy, and conflict of interest, this Policy sets forth the procedures necessary to obtain such exemptions from the State Ethics Law when UMUC collaborates with external entities for research and development.
All UMUC officials and employees shall comply with this Policy and Procedures.
- Designated Official: The UMUC staff member(s) tasked with reviewing the disclosure form as detailed in Section V. Procedures.
- Harmful Interest: An interest which is found by the Designated Official to be so influential as to impair impartiality in the conduct of research, the interpretation of the results of the research, and/or the determination of research or other professional or employment priorities.
- Relationship: Means any interest, service, employment, gift, or other benefit or relationship. "Relationship" includes any relationship of the spouse or other relative (father, mother, sister, brother, or child) of an officer or employee if such relationship would create restrictions on the officer or employee under the conflict of interest provisions of the Public Ethics Law.
- Research or development: Means basic or applied research or development and includes:
- The development of marketing of university-owned technology;
- The acquisition of services of an official or employee by an entity for research and development purposes; or
- Participation in State economic development programs.
- State Ethics Law: The law contained in the Annotated Code of Maryland – General Provisions – Title 5 – Maryland Public Ethics Law.
- Guiding Principles and Standards
- Integrity, personal accountability, respect, and high ethical standards are principal factors in avoiding conflicts of interest or other harmful interests, and members of the UMUC community are expected to conduct their activities in a manner that reflects UMUC's core values.
- The term "conflicts of interest" denotes situations in which current or former officials or employees of UMUC are in a position to gain financial advantage or personal benefit arising from their status (or former status) as UMUC officials or employees. The State Ethics Law generally restricts the relationships that a University employee may have with an external entity that does or seeks to do business with the University due to the potential for such conflicts of interest.
- Situations where such conflicts of interest may arise can be sufficiently complex that opinions may differ as to whether they actually exist or are likely to arise. Individuals of the highest integrity may, therefore, unknowingly place themselves in situations where conflicts exist or are likely to arise.
- Full and prompt disclosure and the availability of advice and counsel are thus vital to resolving and managing conflicts of interest and other harmful interests.
- Present or former officials or employees of UMUC who have or may have a relationship with an entity engaged in research or development shall disclose such relationship as described in Section V. Procedures.
- Individuals are encouraged to reach out to their supervisor or the Office of Legal Affairs for guidance on conflicts of interest.
- Permissible Conduct: Claims for Exemption under the State Ethics Law
A present or former official or employee of UMUC may have a relationship (as defined herein) 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 conflicts of interest provisions of the State Ethics Law, if such relationship is disclosed and approved by the UMUC President in accordance with the procedures set forth in this Policy.
- Prohibited Activities and Conduct
- If the Procedures defined within this Policy are not met, the UMUC official or employee claiming the exemption from the State Ethics Law shall not obtain such exemption and shall not maintain the relationship with the entity.
- A relationship for which an exemption is claimed shall not:
- Improperly give an advantage to an entity with which the relationship is maintained;
- Lead to misuse of institution students, employees or resources for the benefit of an entity with which the relationship is maintained; or
- Otherwise interfere with the duties and responsibilities of the exempt official or employee.
- Nothing in this Policy allows an exemption on the part of any official or employee of UMUC from the provisions of §5-505 (Gifts or honoraria) of the State Ethics Law. Further, an official or employee of UMUC shall not:
- Represent a party for contingent compensation in any matter before the USM Board of Regents (BOR) or before the State's Board of Public Works; or
- Intentionally misuse his or her position with UMUC or the USM for personal gain or for the gain of another person.
- Specific Officials
- The President, a Senior Vice President, a Vice President or an employee holding a similar position may have such a relationship only if the BOR makes the following findings:
- That participation by, and the financial interest or employment of, the official is necessary to the success of a research or development activity benefitting UMUC or USM; and
- That any conflicts of interest can be managed consistent with the purposes of relevant provisions of the State Ethics Law.
- The BOR shall notify the Ethics Commission of any approvals granted under this Section. If the Ethics Commission disagrees with the BOR approval, within 30 days after receipt of the notice the Ethics Commission shall notify the BOR of the reason for its disagreement. Upon receipt of the notice from the Ethics Commission, the BOR shall reexamine the matter. For more detailed procedures related to Specific Officials, please see the USM III-1.11 Policy on Conflicts of Interest in Research and Development and USM VIII-15.00 Policy on High Impact Economic Development Activities.
- Timely Disclosure of any Relationship
- UMUC requires timely disclosure of any relationship, defined herein, which would otherwise be prohibited by this Policy or the State Ethics law.
- Outgoing (or former) officials or employees shall take any necessary steps to ensure compliance with this Conflicts of Interest Policy when transitioning from UMUC employment to a position at another organization or interest in such organization. Failure to do so may result in notice to the State Ethics Commission.
- Review of Claim for Exemption by Designated Official
- UMUC officials or employees claiming an exemption under this Policy shall complete the disclosure form, available from the Office of Legal Affairs.
- An employee may not engage in the research and development activities until he or she receives final approval from the UMUC President.
- The Office of Legal Affairs shall forward the disclosure form to the Designated Official for review and evaluation.
- The Senior Vice President and Chief Business Officer shall review the disclosure form submitted by UMUC Staff members and other UMUC officials.
- The Provost and Senior Vice President, Academic Affairs shall review disclosure forms submitted by UMUC Faculty members and members of the divisions of Academic Affairs.
- The Designated Official in reviewing the disclosure form:
- May request further information to be disclosed;
- Shall determine whether or not the disclosed relationship represents a harmful interest; and
- Shall determine the restrictions, if any, which shall be imposed by UMUC to manage, reduce or eliminate any actual or potential conflict of interest.
- Following completion of the disclosure form review, the CBO or Provost shall forward the form to the UMUC President.
- Approval of the Claim for Exemption by the President
- The UMUC President shall approve or deny the claim for exemption as described in the disclosure form. The decision of the UMUC President shall be the final decision.
- If the Designated Official determined that the disclosed relationship represents a harmful interest, then approval shall not be granted.
- Post-Approval Conflict of Interest
If, after approval of the claim for exemption, a new or unforeseen conflict of interest arises between the UMUC employee/official and the entity engaging in research and development, the UMUC employee/official shall promptly disclose such conflict, in writing, to the Office of Legal Affairs who shall forward such disclosure to the Designated Official for processing in accordance with subsections b and c of this Section.
- Requirements for doing business with High Impact Economic Development Activity Entities
- Subject to State law and Board of Regents' policy, UMUC may enter into contractual arrangements or agreements with High Impact Economic Development Activity entities for the provision of services, products, or other needs of the institution. High Impact Economic Development Activity is defined by statute and in USM VIII-15.00 Policy on High Impact Economic Development Activities.
- A present or former official or employee of UMUC may have a relationship (as defined herein) with a High Impact Economic Development Activity entity, which relationship would otherwise be prohibited by the conflict of interest provisions of the State Ethics Law, if such relationship is disclosed and approved by the President in accordance with this Policy.
- For procedures related to actual or potential conflicts of interest of the President, a Senior Vice President, a Vice President or an employee holding a similar position refer to Section IV.d. Specific Officials.
UMUC officials or employees who violate this Policy may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment. In addition, the State Ethics Commission may be notified of violations of this Policy.
UMUC will submit to the USM Chancellor a quarterly report which shall include all approvals granted under this Policy.
- Following the President's final determination, the UMUC Office of Legal Affairs shall file each disclosure form with the State Ethics Commission.
- UMUC shall maintain records related to all disclosures under this Policy in accordance with the Maryland Public Information Act.
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