Outside Activities, Financial Interests, and Conflict of Interest

Published: August 22nd, 2007

Category: Memos

Angel Kwolek-Folland, Interim Associate Provost, Academic Affairs

The following Web sites are provided for your information and are an overview of outside activities and conflict of interest responsibilities:

–Rules of the University of Florida: http://regulations.ufl.edu/chapter1/1011.pdf
–Guidelines, Policies, and Procedures on Conflict of Interest and Outside Activities, Including Financial Interests:http://www.generalcounsel.ufl.edu/downloads/COI.pdf
–In addition, for IFAS see also http://imm.ifas.ufl.edu/6_30/630-1-12.htm

Recent discussion about conflicts of interest generated by the use of faculty-authored course materials warrants a specific update. The Faculty Senate Academic Policy Council met on July 9, 2007 to begin a discussion on this issue, and the Chair anticipates that discussion will continue into the fall. As that effort goes forward, we will continue to follow current policy using the “Disclosure of Outside Activities and Financial Interests” form for reporting.

UF policy on the assignment of course materials in which a faculty member has a financial interest aims simultaneously to protect students from coercive situations and acknowledge faculty’s need to assign appropriate course materials. Under current policy, when course material assignments create a conflict of interest, several things apply:

1. The selection must be made for academic reasons.
2. The faculty member cannot take personal remuneration for materials developed for use at UF (i.e., annotated syllabi, course packs, class notes, and so forth).
3. The faculty member must disclose the proposed use of the course materials.
4. Department chairs and deans are responsible for reviewing the use of the materials.
5. If personal remuneration is allowed, students must have reasonable, free access to copies of the materials.

Some examples of situations where prior disclosure and approval of the use is required in reference to faculty- authored course materials are:

1. The faculty member (or a member of her or his family) owns or has an interest in a publishing concern that produces course materials used in UF classrooms.
2. The faculty member accepts consulting or other fees for services from publishing companies or other entities that sell course materials to UF students in the faculty member’s classes.
3. The faculty member authors a nationally-adopted textbook, and also requires that textbook in her or his own UF class.
4. The faculty member publishes a monograph or other book with a university press, and also requires that book for her or his own UF class.
5. The faculty member creates course materials used by a number of institutions, but the material includes quizzes, exams, or other materials necessary to a course, and requires that her or his students purchase them.

Note that in these situations the conflict arises because the faculty member has a financial interest in materials assigned for UF students. UF policy allows for chairs, deans, and the faculty member to determine that the course materials have enough national (or international) standing to warrant the faculty member taking income from the sale. Absent national standing, there are several ways to resolve the conflict of interest, all of which have been used by faculty here and at other AAU institutions:

1. Do not take any of the financial proceeds from sales to UF students.
2. Donate financial proceeds to an entity that benefits students and that is not controlled by the faculty member (scholarship account, student research travel fund, etc.).
3. Return funds to the students directly (through reimbursement, providing author discount, providing on-line password, etc.).
4. Seek national standing for the course materials: demonstrate peer review, and thus scholarly strength, of the materials through either publication by a national (or international) publishing concern that uses peer review, or adoption of the materials by faculty at other institutions (which is a form of peer review) and ensure that the materials are available without charge to students who do not wish to purchase them.

We expect chairs to review course materials to assess whether a conflict exists. It is the faculty member’s responsibility to resolve the conflict. To assist you in evaluating the conflict of interest and how best to resolve it, we suggest you request the following information from faculty who have filed the conflict of interest disclosure form:

–Course Number, Title, and Semester of Proposed Use
–Expected Enrollment
–Title/Name of Course Materials or Book (and a copy for your review)
–Date published
–Do you or a member of your family have a personal financial interest in this publication (i.e., receive royalties, honoraria, fees, or other remuneration)?
–Do you or a member of your family have a personal financial interest in this publishing business?
–If so, what is the nature of your financial interest?
–How many institutions have adopted these materials for courses? (Please provide a list of the institutions).
–How will you ensure that sufficient copies of the materials are freely-accessible for students (via library Reserve, on- line access, or some other form)?

In order to let students know that faculty have resolved the conflict of interest, I would suggest that they include a statement in their syllabus to that effect, and provide notice where and how free access to the materials is available.

Please review conflict of interest disclosure forms for faculty-authored materials scheduled for course use this fall. Course materials involved in a conflict of interest are not authorized for use until forms have been approved by the appropriate chair and dean, and reviewed by me. Please contact me at akf@aa.ufl.edu or 352-392-4792 if you have any questions.

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