When something from your personal or private life influences — or appears to influence — your duties as a researcher, you may have entered a conflict of interest.
Reflect on your
Have you ever witnessed or experienced a conflict of interest in your personal or professional roles? How did the conflict(s) impact your and others’ behaviours?
What strategies might you use to limit the influences of secondary interests or biases in the conduct of your research?
Having a conflict of interest does not imply that anyone has necessarily done anything wrong; however, researchers should identify, disclose and manage conflicts in a timely, open, forthright, constructive and accountable manner to preserve the integrity of the people and processes involved in their research.
Some conflicts of interest are permissible, while others that cannot be appropriately managed are prohibited. Failure to disclose and manage any real, potential or perceived conflicts of interest is a form of research misconduct; it erodes the public’s confidence in the ability of researchers to make professional judgments without bias.
Each researcher plays a role in protecting the reputation and maintaining the integrity of their research by mitigating the potential for, or existence of, conflicts of interest.
Avoid and minimize conflict
Whenever possible, avoid conflicts of interest by removing yourself from any decision-making process that could create a conflict. If removal is not appropriate, you can also recruit a disinterested third party to oversee the decision-making process.
Be transparent about your potential or perceived conflicts
Fully disclosing all potential or existing conflicts of interest helps foster integrity in your research, which in turn, could protect you from allegations of misconduct. The university or your department may be able to offer support to help manage and mitigate against conflicts of interest when you declare them, thereby supporting the continuity of your research as well as your reputation.
Regularly review for any potential conflicts
Be mindful of your relationships and affiliations as you take on new or expanded roles and responsibilities in your personal and professional capacities and consider if any of them may impact your role as a researcher or introduce conflicts. By reviewing these affiliations regularly, you can identify conflicts promptly and maintain an updated Conflict of Interest Declaration, which in turn helps you to protect against unintentional violations of scholarly integrity.
Confusion about regulations and policies
In addition to UBC policies, other federal, institutional or organizational policies may also apply to your research. At the outset of your research, ask about any new or previously unknown requirements and adhere to them — doing so could protect your professional reputation and the integrity of your research. Mentors, peers or UBC’s Office of Research Services can all provide information or resources to help you understand and navigate the policies and regulations that might apply to you.
Outdated Conflict of Interest Declarations
At UBC, faculty and staff members are reminded to complete a Conflict of Interest Declaration annually. However, circumstances may change throughout the year as you consult and engage in activities outside the university to advance and share your knowledge. Periodically review your relationships to identify and disclose any real or potential conflicts to the university. The responsibility of keeping your declarations up to date — and the consequences for not doing so — primarily rests with you.
Private and personal interests can cloud your objective and professional judgment and make it difficult to recognize that your situation involves a conflict of interest. Having conversations with trusted colleagues about your affiliations and using a systematic approach to assess a situation will help you to better identify, disclose and manage conflicts of interest.
- Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment Resource Hub, UBC University Counsel
- Staff Conflict of Interest Initiative, UBC
- US Financial Conflict of Interest, Office of Research Ethics
Continue to Funding & Financial Management
The developed content is adapted from the following:
(2004). Tool 8.1: Checklist for identifying a conflict of interest in Managing Conflicts Of Interest In The Public Sector. Sydney, N.S.W.: ICAC/Crime and Misconduct Commission (Queensland). Retrieved from: https://www.integrity.qld.gov.au/assets/document/catalogue/icac_info_she...
MacDonald, M (n.d.) Ethics and Conflict of Interest. Retrieved from: https://ethics.ubc.ca/peoplemcdonaldconfclit-htm/
University of British Columbia (2012) Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment (Policy No. SC3). Vancouver, BC. Office of University Counsel.