Examples in Sponsored Funding

A "conflict of interest" in a university setting generally refers to situations in which the external interests of a university employee have the potential to influence their decisions in their university role. The influence is generally in ways that could lead to personal gain (financial or non-financial) for the individual or immediate family members.

Conflicts of interest can occur any time a university employee or a member of their immediate family is involved in any way on both sides (that is, both the source and the recipient) of a sponsored funding grant or contract.

These examples are intended to give an idea of the range of situations that might occur. They are not inclusive of all possible situations that could be or could be perceived to be conflicts of interest.

Situation: A university employee serves as PI or Co-PI on a grant that includes a subcontract to a member of the employee's immediate family.

Why could this be perceived to be a conflict of interest? Subcontracting to a member of one's family gives the perception of use of state resources for personal gain. Note that when funds are given to the university from any source, they become university funds and therefore are subject to state of Iowa rules.

What should the employee do? The employee should disclose the conflict via IRBManager. The situation will be reviewed by the Office of the Vice President for Research to determine if there is a way to reduce or eliminate the conflict. If needed, a management plan will be established to prevent the university employee from using, or appearing to use, their position to benefit themselves or the family member. This is generally done by transferring the responsibility for the grant to a third party.

Situation: An ISU employee gets a grant from an engineering company to conduct research on the efficiency of energy conversation in various engine designs, one of which is sold by the engineering company. The employee's spouse owns more than 5 percent of the company stock.

Why could this be perceived to be a conflict of interest? The employee's spouse, and therefore the employee, stands to gain financially depending on the outcome of the research, which raises questions about the integrity of the research.

What should the employee do? To protect research integrity, ISU policy prohibits investigators from receiving grants from entities in which they or their family members have a management role or a significant financial interest. Therefore, the employee should disclose the situation. A management plan will be needed and it will likely either 1) transfer the grant to a third party to provide oversight or 2) establish an oversight committee to monitor the integrity of the research.