University of Iowa Conflict of Interest in Research


Conflict of Interest in Research Policy

The University of Iowa revised its conflict of interest in research policy in August, 2012, in order to be in compliance with the federal regulation. The regulation places the responsibility for determining the existence of a financial conflict of interest in research on the institution rather than the investigator. Researchers must disclose all financial interests in outside entities in the eCOI Disclosure System, and then the Conflict of Interest in Research Office reviews the disclosures in the context of all routing forms and IRB applications.

The policy applies to all individuals involved in research at the University, regardless of job title, who contribute in a substantive way to the development, execution, and reporting of research, and who are granted a significant degree of freedom in exercising independent judgment.

Questions regarding the UI policy or the federal regulation should be directed to Martha Hedberg, 319-384-4256. Your questions may also be answered by reviewing this document.

Overview

Conflict of interest (COI) involves circumstances where an individual's professional actions or decisions at the University could be influenced by considerations of personal gain, usually of a financial nature, as a result of interests outside his/her University responsibilities.  The central theme in addressing COI is transparency, and the first step is disclosure of the interest to the appropriate University administrative office.

Financial Conflict of Interest in Research

Financial conflict of interest in research involves situations in which a researcher has a significant financial interest that may compromise, or have the appearance of compromising, professional judgment in the design, conduct, or reporting of research.  A significant financial interest could include personal compensation from industry, equity interest or a management role in a company, or royalties generated from intellectual property rights.

Financial conflicts of interest are common in a modern research university, and to some extent, they are inevitable.  Academic researchers and industry have a long history of collaborating, and these collaborations can provide mutual benefit by contributing  to a university's research mission and helping to focus  the research directions of industry.  Industry/researcher collaboration is accomplished by personal consultation and/or sponsored research.  

Also, universities are responsible for stimulating economic development and transferring discoveries to the private sector.  Universities commercialize their technologies by  licensing discoveries to established companies or to companies started by academic inventors.       

All of these situations can create opportunities for researchers to receive financial rewards related to their research.  With the opportunities comes risks that the direction of research will be affected, the objectivity of the data will be compromised,  and the interpretation of research results will be skewed.  As a researcher, you might not consider that your financial interest would pose these risks, but it can create that perception.  This perception of bias can be as damaging to the researcher and the institution as actual bias.

At the University of Iowa, we seek to minimize the adverse affects of conflict of interest in research and to advise faculty and staff on how to mitigate, manage, or if necessary, eliminate those conflicts.  We are committed to complying with federal regulations and University policies related to disclosure, review and management of financial interests. 

We are here to help you, so please contact us for assistance.