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Conflicts

A conflict of interest exists when a financial or other personal consideration may compromise, or appear to compromise, the design, conduct, or reporting of research.

Conflicts of interest can be broadly divided into two categories: tangible, i.e., those involving financial relationships, and intangible, i.e., those involving academic activities and scholarship.

Examples of Potential Conflicts of Interest:

  • A researcher holds an executive position with a company that stands to benefit from the research being conducted at the institution. In this situation, it is very easy for the public to suspect that the researcher would not be objective in conducting or reporting the results of the research. Either positive or negative research results are likely to affect the company. If the researcher has an executive position in the company, he/she also has a fiduciary responsibility to that company. This places the researcher in conflict with his/her primary responsibility to the institution to conduct the research in an objective and ethical manner.
  • An institution's researcher holds equity over a certain dollar amount or percentage of a company that stands to benefit from the research study at the institution. In this situation, the researcher does not have a fiduciary responsibility to the company. Instead, the conflict is purely financial. Good research results that benefit the company may also benefit the researcher financially. Research results that negatively impact the company would also reduce the value of the researcher's equity. This does not necessarily mean a researcher would conduct research unethically, however, the likelihood of that occurring and the public perception that the research is tainted are increased when researchers hold significant equity in a company that can benefit from his/her research.
  • A researcher receives significant financial compensation in the form of consulting payments or payment for services on a company's advisory board from a company that will be affected by the research study. As in the previous example, this situation involves financial benefits to the researcher. He or she could easily feel pressured to report only positive results if his or her future income from the company might be affected.
  • An academic conflict of interest could occur if an individual interferes with the peer-review process for some type of intangible personal gain. Bias, for example, can cause a reviewer to respond positively to a manuscript because it presents results favoring a method or production in which the reviewer has a personal interest, or a reviewer may act to delay the publication of a competitor's manuscript in order to strengthen his or her own chances for publication or funding. These intangible academic interests are indigenous to every researcher. Indeed, the drive for recognition can be overwhelming, particularly when a future position or livelihood depends on public achievements. Sources of intellectual bias, such as these, have long been recognized by the research community, but they must also be recognized and addressed by the individual researcher.

Procedures for Disclosure
UT Arlington's Committee on Research Integrity (CRI) is charged with oversight of the University's conflict of interest and commitment program. Some requirements of this program, per federal law, are to maintain and enforce a policy on conflicts of interest, and to inform individuals of this policy. UTA and the CRI are responsible for knowing what conflicts might exist at the University and to manage, reduce, or eliminate those conflicts.

The key to handling potential or actual conflicts is full disclosure of the conflicting situation to identify it and allow the situation to be monitored and/or managed. The CRI is committed to moving research forward and fostering entrepreneurial spirit while maintaining objectivity and integrity. If a conflicting situation arises that will require management, the CRI will work in cooperation with the individual to devise and implement an appropriate plan. In many cases, merely disclosing all the facts of a situation will render it acceptable.

At UT Arlington, researchers are required to submit an Annual Conflict of Interest Disclosure. This annual disclosure can be completed and submitted online:  https://www.uta.edu/mentis/public/#coi/disclosure/my. Simply log in using your UTA net ID and password. At any time, if there are changes to your current Disclosure certification, you are required to modify and resubmit the COI Disclosure as the change occurs.

UT Arlington's Conflict of Interest Policy: http://www.uta.edu/policy/hop/toc/adm_5-1300.php.

Available Forms

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The University of Texas at Arlington: Annual Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form

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Additional Resources

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The University of Texas at Arlington: Policy and Procedures for Promoting Objectivity in Research by Managing, Reducing or Eliminating Conflicts of Interest

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The University of Texas System Rules and Regulations of the Board of Regents: Equity Interests

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The University of Texas System Rules and Regulations of the Board of Regents: Business Participation and Reporting

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