What is a "Conflict of Interest"?

As defined in APS 5012: “A conflict of interest refers to a situation in which financial, professional or other personal considerations may directly or indirectly affect, or have the appearance of affecting, an employee’s professional judgment in exercising any university duty or responsibility in administration, management, instruction, research or other professional activities. This can include interests that bias the nature or direction of scholarly research or influence decisions with respect to teaching and students, appointments and promotions, use of university resources, interactions with human subjects or other matters of interest to the university.”

Conflicts of Interest also refers to situations where a Significant Interest, including a Significant Financial Interest, could directly and significantly affect the design, conduct, or reporting of research or educational activities.

A Conflict of Interest includes any Financial Conflicts of Interest.

What is a “Conflict of Commitment”?

As defined in APS 5012: “A conflict of commitment refers to a situation in which outside relationships or activities interfere with, or have the appearance of interfering with, an employee’s commitment to their university duties or responsibilities.”

What are some examples of possible Conflicts?

Examples of activities and situations that present, or may appear to present, potential conflicts of interest include, but are not limited to:

  1. Situations in which financial, professional, or other personal considerations may directly or indirectly affect, or have the appearance of affecting, an employee’s professional judgment in exercising any university duty or responsibility in administration, management, instruction, research, or other professional activities. This can include interests that bias the nature or direction of scholarly research or influence decisions with respect to teaching and students, appointments and promotions, use of university resources, interactions with human subjects, or other matters of interest to the university.
  2. Situations in which outside relationships or activities interfere with, or have the appearance of interfering with, an employee’s commitment to their university duties or responsibilities.
  3. An employee’s external personal entity utilizes, supports, or funds their sponsored research.
  4. An employee purchases via university or sponsored research funds any goods or services from his/her external personal entity.
  5. An employee’s external personal entity licenses intellectual property to, or otherwise profits from, sponsored research.
  6. An employee subcontracts any aspects of his/her sponsored research to his/her external personal entity.
  7. An employee’s Significant Interest in his/her external personal entity could directly and significantly affect the design, conduct, or reporting of their sponsored research or educational activities.
  8. Diversion of university business opportunities to an external entity.
  9. Assignment of students or graduate assistants to duties that benefit an external entity in which the person in charge of assignment of those duties has a Significant Interest.
  10. Use of university facilities, supplies, or personnel for the benefit of an external entity in which the employee has a Significant Interest.
  11. Assumption of responsibilities for an external organization that divert a university employee from his/her attention to university duties, or create other conflicts of loyalty.
  12. Use for personal profit of unpublished information emanating from university research or other confidential university sources, assisting an external organization by giving it exclusive access to such information, or consulting under arrangements that impose obligations that conflict with university patent policy or with the university’s obligations to research sponsors.
  13. Conduct of research that could and ordinarily would be carried on within the university elsewhere to the disadvantage of the university and its legitimate interests.
Why do I need to disclose an actual or perceived Conflict of Interest and/or Commitment?

Disclosure is not simply a matter of compliance. It is an essential part of an academic and researcher’s responsibilities, adherence to the university’s academic honor code, and duties as an employee of CU Boulder. Examples of why Disclosure is necessary include, but are not limited to:

  • The university’s reputation for research excellence rests on the confidence that research is done without bias due to personal financial interest in the outcome (among other reasons). Disclosing those interests creates transparency and helps us manage potential conflicts before they become a problem.
  • Disclosure of financial and other interests helps maintain the public trust by addressing concerns that professional decisions and actions be made without the undue influence of personal benefit.
  • CU Boulder is obligated by federal research sponsors to have a robust conflict of interest policy, the centerpiece of which is the annual Disclosure of researchers’ affiliations with outside entities.
  • Failure to submit a DEPA can prevent or delay grant application submissions and the release of grant funds. It may also prevent or delay the approval of human subject and animal research projects.
Who needs to submit a disclosure?

All faculty and any other employee or student with responsibility for the purpose, design, conduct or reporting of research are considered essential to the research process and must disclose any significant financial interest and external professional activity that could compromise or appear to compromise their judgment in performing their university duties or responsibilities. It is not for each individual researcher to decide if he/she must report based on a belief that no conflicts exist.

All faculty includes Tenured and Tenure-track faculty; Teaching Professors (all levels); Instructors (all levels); Lecturers; Adjunct, Visiting, and Research faculty; retired faculty if engaged in research activities at CU Boulder; Professional Research Assistants, Research Associates, and Research Assistants. TAs and Adjoint Faculty typically do not need to submit the DEPA unless they are engaged in research activities. The disclosure requirement applies to full time and proportional appointments. Non-university employees such as collaborators, consultants, subcontractors, and volunteers may be required to submit the DEPA or to certify disclosure at another institution, depending upon funding agency requirements.

If you are engaged in one or more of the following activities, you are required to submit the DEPA:

  • Directing, overseeing, or supervising the research process and/or research personnel
  • Participating in theory development and testing
  • Participating in the design and development of research protocols, experiments, tests, or other means of data collection
  • Participating in sample design and selection
  • Participating in the collection or analysis of data or the reporting of results
  • Enrolling human subjects or participating in the informed consent process
  • Intervening with human subjects by performing research procedures or manipulating the environment for research purposes
  • Having access to personally identifiable study data

If you are engaged in only the following activities, you are not required to submit the DEPA:

  • Performing data entry or statistical analysis on data sets without involvement in research design, sample selection, data collection, or reporting of results
  • Participating in the recruitment of research subjects without any involvement in enrollment
  • Interacting with research subjects without performing a procedure or intervention for research purposes
  • Participating in the acquisition, monitoring, and maintenance of materials, supplies, and equipment without engaging in their use for research purposes
  • Performing language translation of research-related documents, including survey instruments
  • Hiring and training research personnel

In addition, the following groups are required to submit the DEPA:

  • Librarians and Museum Associates and Fellows
  • Research Committee Members (i.e., IRB members, IACUC members and/or other research review committees)
  • Staff who negotiate or execute research agreements on behalf of CU Boulder: Area/Program Administrators, Office of Contracts and Grants staff members, and Venture Partners at CU Boulder staff members
  • Office of Research Integrity staff members
Who is an “Investigator/Principal Investigator/Principal Director”?

Traditionally limited to the Principal Investigator and Co-Principal Investigators; some federal regulations include this to mean any Research Personnel or other Key Personnel, regardless of title or position at a university, responsible for the design, conduct, and/or reporting of research, proposed research, or educational activities.

A Principal Investigator or Project Director of a PHS-funded research project is included in the definitions of Senior/Key Personnel and Investigator.

The Principal Investigator or Project Director and any other person, regardless of title or position, who is responsible for the purpose, design, conduct, or reporting of research funded by a grant sponsor, or proposed for such funding, which may include, for example, collaborators or consultants.

Who is a “Senior/Key Personnel”?

The PD/PI and any other person identified as Senior/Key Personnel by the institution in the grant application, progress report, or any other report submitted to a grant sponsor by the university.

Key Personnel includes any individual involved in research and who is supported in salary, supplies, space, or other resources by grant funding.

What do I need to report?

You are required to disclose all Significant Interests held by you or a close family member related to or that reasonably appear to be related to your institutional responsibilities. In addition, you must provide information about the sources of funds that support your research.

Examples of Significant Interests you need to disclose include, but are not limited to:

  • External affiliations, activities, & appointments
    • Positions for which compensation greater than $5,000 is received
    • Corporate Board membership, paid or unpaid
  • Ownership interests
    • Equity, stock, stock options in a publicly traded entity valued at more than $5,000 or in a non-publicly traded entity of any value
  • External consulting activities and other outside work
    • any service that is 1) related to your professional expertise in your university position, 2) provided to an external entity, 3) for remuneration (monetary) or other compensation greater than $5,000 from a single entity over the past 12 months, 4) including but not limited to advising; conducting research or analysis; writing reports; delivering presentations or training; contributing to or managing projects; designing, developing or producing products or services; providing clinical services
  • Foreign activities of any kind
  • In-kind contributions with an associated time commitment. This includes research collaboration with the intent to publish with an entity, organization, and/or institution other than a U.S. institution of higher education from which you received monetary or non-monetary value (including free or subsidized space, laboratories, equipment, or materials; other in-kind contributions such as support services and visiting researchers or personnel) or a foreign research collaboration for any purpose. A research collaboration includes one or more of the following:
    • Collecting, sharing, or analyzing non-public data
    • Designing, fabricating, improving, or testing equipment together
    • Contributions to writing or revising a manuscript
    • Traveling in support of the above actions
  • Reimbursed or sponsored travel
    • To a U.S. destination valued at more than $2,500 when aggregated per entity over the previous 12 months (except travel that is reimbursed or sponsored by the University of Colorado; a U.S. federal, state or local government agency; another U.S. institution of higher education; a U.S. academic teaching hospital, medical center or research institute that is affiliated with a U.S. institution of higher education)
    • To a foreign destination of any value
  • Intellectual property
    • Licensing or royalty income
  • Foreign talent recruitment program participation
What do I not need to report?

You do not need to disclose the following:

  • A personal or financial interest unrelated to your institutional responsibilities
  • A financial interest that does not exceed the thresholds
  • A U.S.-based research collaboration in which no monetary or non-monetary value is received from an outside entity, institution, or organization
  • Salary, royalties, or other remuneration paid by the university if you are currently employed or otherwise appointed by the university, including intellectual property rights assigned to the university and agreements to share in royalties related to such rights
  • Income from investment vehicles, such as mutual funds and retirement accounts, as long as you do not directly control the investment decisions made in these vehicles.
  • Income from seminars, lectures, or teaching engagements sponsored by a U.S. federal, state, or local government agency; a U.S. institution of higher education as defined at 20 U.S.C. 1001(a); a U.S. academic teaching hospital, medical center, or a research institute that is affiliated with a U.S. institution of higher education
  • Income from service on advisory committees or review panels for a U.S. federal, state, or local government agency; a U.S. institution of higher education as defined at 20 U.S.C. 1001(a); a U.S. academic teaching hospital, medical center, or a research institute that is affiliated with a U.S. institution of higher education
  • Travel that is reimbursed or sponsored by the university; a U.S. federal, state, or local government agency; another U.S. institution of higher education; a U.S. academic teaching hospital, medical center, or research institute that is affiliated with a U.S. institution of higher education
What is a "Significant Interest"?

A Financial Interest or other personal interest received from or held in an entity outside of the university that reasonably appears to be related to your Institutional Responsibilities. Significant Interest includes Significant Financial Interest.

What is a “Significant Financial Interest”?

A Financial Interest received from or held in an entity outside of the university that reasonably appears to be related to your Institutional Responsibilities and that meets or exceeds the thresholds established in accordance with current funding agency regulations (including the PHS regulations reflected at 42 CFR Part 50, Subpart F):

  1. With regard to any publicly traded entity, value of any Remuneration received from the entity in the twelve (12) months preceding the Disclosure and the value of any Equity Interest in the entity as of the date of Disclosure, when aggregated, exceeding $5,000.
  2. With regard to any non-publicly traded entity, value of any Remuneration received from the entity in the twelve (12) months preceding the Disclosure exceeding $5,000, OR any Equity Interest.
  3. Intellectual Property rights and interests (e.g., patents, copyrights), upon receipt of income related to such rights and interests.
  4. Travel reimbursement or sponsorship to a U.S. destination valued at more than $2,500 when aggregated per entity over the previous 12 months or to a foreign destination of any value (except travel that is reimbursed or sponsored by the University of Colorado; a U.S. federal, state, or local government agency; another U.S. institution of higher education; a U.S. academic teaching hospital, medical center, or research institute that is affiliated with a U.S. institution of higher education)

The term “Significant Financial Interest” does NOT include:

  1. Salary, royalties, or other remuneration paid by the university to the Discloser if the Discloser is currently employed or otherwise appointed by the university, including intellectual property rights assigned to the university and agreements to share in royalties related to such rights.
  2. Income from investment vehicles, such as mutual funds and retirement accounts, as long as the Discloser does not directly control the investment decisions made in these vehicles.
  3. Income from seminars, lectures, or teaching engagements sponsored by a U.S. federal, state, or local government agency; a U.S. institution of higher education as defined at 20 U.S.C. 1001(a); a U.S. academic teaching hospital, medical center, or a research institute that is affiliated with a U.S. institution of higher education.
  4. Income from service on advisory committees or review panels for a U.S. federal, state, or local government agency; a U.S. institution of higher education as defined at 20 U.S.C. 1001(a); a U.S. academic teaching hospital, medical center, or a research institute that is affiliated with a U.S. institution of higher education.
  5. Travel that is reimbursed or sponsored by the university; a U.S. federal, state, or local government agency; another U.S. institution of higher education; a U.S. academic teaching hospital, medical center, or research institute that is affiliated with a U.S. institution of higher education.
What is a "Financial Conflict of Interest (FCOI)"?

A Significant (Financial) Interest that could directly and significantly affect the design, conduct, or reporting of research.

What is a "Financial Conflict of Interest (FCOI) Report"?

The university’s report of a Financial Conflict of Interest to a PHS Awarding Component.

What is a "Financial Interest"?

A domestic or foreign external interest held by a Research Personnel or any member of the Research Personnel’s Family in or from an entity other than the university. Examples include, but are not limited to, anything of value (whether or not the value is readily ascertainable), Remuneration, Equity Interest (including stock and stock options), Intellectual Property rights (and royalties from such rights), and obligations to any external entities, organizations, or institutions.

What is included in the term "Family"?

For the purposes of this policy, any family member with whom you have a close relationship that could cloud your judgement. Family members include, but are not limited to, spouse, parents (yours or spouse’s), child, sibling, son/daughter-in-law, step relatives, domestic partner, and/or relatives of domestic partner in any relationship stated above.

(See Policy & Standards.)

When do I disclose an actual or perceived Conflict of Interest and/or Commitment?

Disclosures must be submitted at least annually and updated within thirty (30) days of a Change in Status of a previously disclosed Significant Interest or discovering or acquiring a new one. January 15th to March 31st of each year is the primary reporting period for Disclosure reporting at the university. Disclosers must include any information not previously disclosed in any other Disclosure period as well as updated information regarding any previous Disclosures.

Note that Disclosers planning to engage in sponsored research must complete the required Disclosures no later than the time of application for the research. If a Disclosure is made during the course of an ongoing research project (including Disclosures by Research Personnel who are new to participating in the research project, or Disclosures of new/previously un-reviewed Significant Interests by existing Research Personnel), review, analysis, and management (if applicable) of any Disclosures will be completed within sixty (60) days of the Disclosure.

How do I disclose Significant Interests?

Significant Interests are reported electronically via the DEPA Form.

The COIC Office has transitioned to a new InfoEd reporting system, which included a revamp of the DEPA Form.

  1. To access the DEPA Form, please follow the below steps:
    1. Go to https://era.cu.edu.
    2. Select Boulder from the campus drop-down menu.
    3. Enter your IdentiKey and Password. Click Log in.
    4. Click DEPA Form in the left-side menu on the Home page.
    5. Click Create/Update DEPA Form when the screen refreshes.
  2. To view your previous DEPA submissions, please follow the below steps:
    1. Log into MyCUInfo.
    2. Employees: Under CU Resources, select the Faculty Reporting & DEPA tile.
    3. Students: In the Buff Portal, open the search function by clicking the menu icon in the top left corner of the page, then search “DEPA” and select the link.
    4. Click Log into DEPA.
Who is “Supervising Authority”?

Supervising Authority includes your immediate supervisor (e.g. department chair, institute director, or unit head) of the Discloser, including faculty Supervising Administrators (as defined by the Professional Rights and Duties Faculty Affairs Policy).

What is a "Management Plan"?

A document developed by the COIC Office and approved by the applicable Supervising Authority to (1) obtain information and commitments regarding Significant Interests and prevent such Significant Interests from developing into Conflicts of Interest, and/or (2) Manage Conflict(s) of Interests for a particular Discloser.

  • The Management Plan may address the areas of university responsibilities implicated, including:
    1. Objectivity and scientific integrity, including Disclosure of a Discloser’s Conflict in publications and presentations;
    2. Objective treatment of students and/or subordinates;
    3. Objective treatment of, and scientific integrity with respect to, human subjects;
    4. Decisions regarding the development, Disclosure, and use of university Intellectual Property;
    5. Decisions regarding the decision to purchase products or services;
    6. Decisions regarding the use of the Discloser’s time as well as other resources of the university; and
    7. Decisions regarding the appropriate rate to charge an outside entity for services performed by university employees.
What if I am unsure about whether a particular situation amounts to an actual or perceived Conflict of Interest and/or Commitment?

The discloser does not decide whether a conflict exists.

  1. It is your responsibility to report Significant Interests completely, accurately and in a timely fashion.
  2. It is the responsibility of the academic institution to evaluate Disclosures of Significant (Financial) Interests, determine if any Conflicts of Interest exist, and develop, if applicable, Management Plans for Significant Interests and/or Conflicts of Interest.
  3. While the COIC Office is responsible for drafting and collecting information relevant to a Management Plan, final authority for authorizing and approving the Management Plan rests with the applicable Supervising Authority.
Am I allowed to engage in work or activities outside of my university responsibilities?

Yes, you may engage in outside work under certain conditions. However, it is important to avoid a Conflict of Commitment. According to University Administrative Policy Statement 5012, Conflicts of Commitment relate to an individual university employee’s distribution of effort between employment obligations to the university and outside professional activities. A Conflict of Commitment arises when time dedicated to professional service, consultation, or research contracted outside the university or other outside activities (e.g., outside teaching or business) interfere with the employee’s paramount obligations to students, colleagues, and the primary missions of the university. Conflicts of Commitment primarily involve questions of time and effort but are often tied to financial remuneration or other obligations/inducements, and in such cases may also constitute Conflicts of Interest.

  1. Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty.
    The Board of Regents recognizes that full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty members are expected to dedicate their professional time and effort to the university. However, as described in Regent Policy 5.C.4(D): “outside consultation, research, clinical, and other work can serve to keep faculty in contact with real problems in their profession and expand their expertise and thus, to the extent authorized by regent laws and policies, are desirable and legitimate functions.” Accordingly, subject to certain conditions (including a commitment to limit outside work to no more than one-sixth of time), the university may allow full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty (on both 9-month and 12-month appointments) to obtain approval for outside consultation, research, clinical, and other external professional activities that are related to their professional expertise in their university position. These Faculty should obtain approval using the Consulting Approval Form. See Regent Policy 5.C.4(D), APS 1044.
  2. Other University Employees. 
    All university employees (including but not limited to research faculty) other than tenured or tenure‐track faculty are not permitted to use university time for personal benefit nor for the benefit of external entities, unless approved by the employee’s Supervising Authority. Supervising Authorities may not authorize such service unless the service advances the interest of the university and does not unduly conflict with the staff member’s university responsibilities. Moreover, any compensation received for consulting and service on external boards occurring during the staff member’s normal working hours must be remitted to the university unless the employee is working on authorized vacation or unpaid leave. Research Associates, PRAs, Research Professors, Lecturers, and Instructors should obtain approval using the Consulting Approval Form. All other employees should obtain approval using the Authorization to Engage in Outside Employment FormSee Regent Policy 8.B.
How can I avoid a Conflict of Interest?

In order to avoid Conflicts of Interest, you must:

  1. Discharge your duties in the best interests of the university and in such a manner that professional judgment in administration, management, instruction, research, and other professional activities are not affected by any outside financial and/or personal interests;
  2. Accord the university your primary professional loyalty; and
  3. Conduct your affairs so as not to derive private gain from your association with the university, except as provided by policy, including but not limited to:
    1. Not assisting any person and/or organization for any fee or other compensation in obtaining any contract, license, or other economic benefit from the university,
    2. Not receiving material compensation from others for performance of university duties, and
    3. Not using university property and/or resources for personal gain except as authorized by university policy.

Should you encounter any potential activity(ies) for which expectations and responsibilities are unclear or that involve foreign affiliations, ask the COIC Office and/or your Supervisory Authority.

Note: Some conflicts cannot be avoided, but must be removed or reduced via a Management Plan that will be individually developed based on the Disclosure.

(See APS 4016 Fiscal Code of Ethics – Employee’s Fiscal Code of Ethics.)

What happens after I disclose my actual or perceived Conflict of Interest and/or Commitment?

After you submit a DEPA Form, the COIC Office will review the Disclosure to determine if a Conflict of Interest and/or Commitment exists. Disclosure of a Significant Interest(s) that reasonably appears to be related to your Institutional Responsibilities may prompt implementation of a Conflict of Interest and Commitment Management Plan.

The COIC Director will review the Disclosures to determine if any disclosed Significant Interests relate to sponsored or other research. A Significant Interest relates to sponsored or other research when the Significant Interest could be affected by the research or is an entity whose financial interests could be affected by the research. Based on this information, the COIC Director determines whether the Significant Interest could compromise (or appear to compromise) your judgment in exercising any of your university responsibilities, or if the Significant Interest could directly and significantly affect the purpose, design, conduct, or reporting of sponsored or other research.

  1. If the COIC Director reasonably determines that the Significant Interest could neither compromise your judgment in exercising your university responsibilities nor directly and significantly affect the purpose, design, conduct, or reporting of sponsored or other research, then no Conflict of Interest exists. If no Conflict exists, you may be required to execute a Management Plan reflecting your commitment to prevent the Significant Interest from ripening into a Conflict of Interest. Your Supervising Authority must approve this Management Plan and the commitments you make. The COIC Office will provide approval notification to you and update your status in its records accordingly.
  2. If the COIC Director reasonably determines that the Significant Interest could either compromise your judgment in exercising your university responsibilities or directly and significantly affect the purpose, design, conduct, or reporting of sponsored or other research, then a Conflict of Interest exists. If a Conflict exists, the COIC Office will develop a Management Plan to manage it.

View COIC Review Process

What happens if a Conflict of Interest and/or Commitment is identified?

If the COIC Director determines that a Conflict of Interest and/or Commitment exists, the Conflict must either be removed or managed. If the conflict will be managed, the Management Plan must include additional commitments from both you and your Supervising Authority to ensure that the conflict is sufficiently managed. Execution of a Management Plan occurs by obtaining (electronic) signatures from you, your Supervising Authority, and the responsible dean. While the COIC Director is responsible for drafting and collecting information relevant to the Management Plan, final authority for authorizing and approving the Management Plan rests with the applicable Supervising Authority.

  1. The Management Plan must be developed and approved prior to any expenditure of funds on any applicable research projects. Once the required signatures are obtaining for a Management Plan, the Conflict of Interest and/or Commitment will be considered to be managed and in compliance. Until that time, proposal submissions, funding awards distribution, and other types of campus approvals/processes that are dependent upon an approved compliance status can only be conferred/administered at the COIC Director’s discretion considering any applicable regulatory stipulations and university policies and procedures.

(See Policy & Standards.)

Are there ramifications if I fail to comply?

Conflict of Interest or Commitment violations include, but are not limited to:

  1. Failure to disclose Conflicts of Interest and/or Commitment;
  2. False or inadequate Disclosure of Conflicts of Interest and/or Commitment;
  3. Failure to adhere to a prescribed Management Plan; and
  4. Failure to adhere to training or reporting requirements.

If the COIC Office determines that an alleged Conflict of Interest or Commitment violation(s) has occurred, the COIC Office will refer the matter to the Supervising Authority for investigation under applicable campus supervisory and/or conduct processes and for potential sanctions. The COIC Office will assist with the matter as requested. In addition, the matter may be referred to other applicable campus units, including, but not limited to: Office of Contracts and Grants, Campus Controller’s Office, Office of Export Controls, and the Campus Misconduct Advisory Group as necessary in order to protect the university as well as sponsors.

If the alleged violation, including failure of a Discloser to comply with the COIC Policy or a Conflict of Interest Management Plan, appears to have biased the design, conduct, or reporting of sponsored research, the university will comply with any notification and reporting requirements regarding such bias to the applicable sponsor. Specifically, for situations involving PHS-funded research, the university will promptly notify the PHS Awarding Component of the corrective action taken or to be taken.

Whom do I contact if I have other questions?

For support in accessing the DEPA Form through eRA/InfoEd or in viewing previous DEPA Form submissions, please contact eRAhelp@colorado.edu

For questions or concerns regarding disclosure or the COIC policy, please visit the COIC website and/or contact the COIC Office via email at coi@colorado.edu or by phone at (303) 492-3024.