Conflict of Interest, Conflict of Commitment, & Outside Activities

Statement of University Policy

HOP 5-2011 and UTS 180

It is the policy of The University of Texas at Austin to provide a transparent system of disclosure, approval, and documentation of employees’ activities outside of the University that might otherwise raise concerns about conflicts of interest or conflicts of commitment. HOP 5-2011 Conflict of Interest, Conflict of Commitment, and Outside Activities provides the institutional framework to protect the credibility and reputation of the University and its faculty and staff when those employees are engaged in outside activities. It is a companion policy to HOP 7-1210, Promoting Objectivity in Research by Managing, Reducing, or Eliminating Conflicts of Interest. These two policies are the local expressions of UT System policies UTS 180 Conflicts of Interests, Conflicts of Commitment, and Outside Activities and UTS 175 Disclosure of Significant Financial Interests and Management and Reporting of Financial Conflicts of Interest in Research, respectively.

Who Is Affected?

Faculty and some staff

HOP 5-2011 applies generally to all University employees as follows:

  • Faculty - UT Austin faculty subject to this policy include all full-time and part-time faculty. Those engaged in research are also affected by HOP 7-1210 which is implemented by the Office of Research Support. Information regarding disclosures relevant to this policy may be found in the Office of Research Support http://www.utexas.edu/research/rsc/coi/training.html.
  • Faculty who disclose under UTS 175 through the Office of Research Support do NOT need to disclose the same information under UTS 180. They do, however, have to disclose other outside activities that produce an actual or potential conflict of interest with the University or which require an unusual amount of time commitment which could interfere with their University duties.
  • Staff – UT Austin staff subject to this policy are full-time staff exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), full-time non-exempt staff who are authorized to execute contracts on behalf of UT or who because of their job duties at UT have authority to exercise discretion with regard to the award of contracts or other financial transactions, part-time exempt staff, and part-time non-exempt staff with same job responsibilities as described above for full-time non-exempt staff. Human Resource Services can help staff determine if they are subject to the policy. HOP 7-1210 also applies to staff engaged in research.
  • Students - graduate student academic employees including but not limited to teaching assistants, instructional assistants, and research assistants are not subject to the disclosure and approval section of the policy.

Examples

Expectations of Affected Employees

What affected employees need to do

University employees may not be engaged in outside activities that are in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of their duties for the University. They may also not have outside activities that would interfere with the fulfillment of their duties and responsibilities to the University. If they do, they are expected to disclose those activities annually using UT System’s Outside Activity Portal (OAP), obtain prior approval, and if needed develop a management plan with their supervisor or in the case of conflicts related to research do so with the Office of Research Support.

Training

Training for policies and procedures

Training modules for HOP 5-2011 are available, and faculty and staff are advised to read through them as part of their familiarization with this new policy.

UT System’s Outside Activity Portal (OAP)

How to use this application

UTS 180 requires that faculty and staff outside activity data be entered into an electronic database so that employees may electronically request prior approval, make necessary disclosures for outside activities, obtain approval or some other action from their approver, and, if necessary, enter into Management Plans that resolve conflicts. UT System developed the Outside Activity Portal or OAP, an electronic database, for this purpose.

Access to the OAP is available at http://outsideactivity.utsystem.edu. Please note that it is best viewed with Internet Explorer (v. 9 or later), but it should work with Chrome (v. 32) and Safari (v. 7.0.1). Full functionality may be missing in Firefox. It does not work on iPad or Android Tablet.

Users entering the OAP will see the UT System Outside Activity Employee Portal or “Home Portal” with four portals:

  • Request [Prior] Approval - generally activities that have not yet occurred, activities such as outside employment and other compensated activity, service on outside boards, and uncompensated activity that may reasonably appear to create a conflict (there are exclusions and exemptions, e.g., UT Austin’s preapproved activities);
  • Make a Disclosure - generally about activities that have already occurred or interests that already exist;
  • Employee Portal - single portal in which faculty and staff can take actions, view status of requests and approvals, make disclosures, acknowledge policies, etc.; and
  • Approver Portal - final approver and other approvers in the approval chain, e.g., department chair, associate dean, dean, for a particular school/college or administrative unit take action on requests and disclosures.

UT System has created the Tool Tip Training document (PDF) for users of the OAP. It is a step by step description of how the OAP is used by employees to request prior approvals and make disclosures and how to use the employee portal to track approvals and disclosures through the review and approval process. The document also provides instructions for the Approvers and how they fulfill their roles.

OAP users can get help in its use through the Help links on each webpage. Clicking on Help causes a Support Request Form to appear with a menu of error types from which the user can select and provide a brief description of the problem. For technical issues, users will receive a response within 24 business hours.

Annual Cycle

When to do what

The OAP uses the calendar year as the basis for its annual cycle and the first quarter of the following year as its Annual Finalization Period. This is done to align the time-frame for the OAP with the tax year. For example, January through March of 2014 would be the Annual Finalization Period for the 2013 calendar year. Thus, during the January 1, 2014 through March 31, 2014 period, faculty and staff will be disclosing activities and resolving actual or potential conflicts of interest and/or conflicts of commitment that took place in CY2013. They will also finalize these activities and declare them ended. At the same time and through the rest of CY2014 they will be doing the same for activities originating in CY2014.

Approvers

What do approvers do and when?

Approvers are anyone who has faculty and/or staff reporting to them. Approvers must sign into the OAP to create their identity in the system; this needs to be done only one time. The procedure for signing in is described in the “Accessing the Outside Activity Portal & Getting Help” section of the Tool Tip Training document (PDF).

Once their identity is established, then those who report to them can route prior approval requests and disclosures to them for action. Approvers should review “The Approval Portal” section in the Tool Tip Training document (PDF).

UT Austin Preapproved Activities

You don’t need prior approval for these activities unless…

Some activity is so integral to the mission of the University that it is encouraged, so long as the activity does not reasonably appear to create a conflict of interest and the amount of time committed does not interfere with the faculty member’s University duties and responsibilities. This may include activities such as the following:

  • Serving on a federal, state, or local government agency committee, panel, or commission.
  • Acting in an editorial capacity for a professional journal.
  • Reviewing journal manuscripts, book manuscripts, grant or contract proposals.
  • Attending and presenting talks at scholarly colloquia and conferences.
  • Developing scholarly communications in books, journal articles, movies, television productions, and similar works, even when such activities result in financial gain, consistent with intellectual property and other applicable UT System and University policies and guidelines.
  • Serving as a committee member or an officer of a professional or scholarly organization.

Caveats

Things you will want to know

The following caveats apply:

  • Entering the system is NOT required of all employees. If an employee does not have a request to make or activity to disclose, they may not have to enter the OAP at all unless they need to approve the request of someone else.
  • Only faculty who earn more than $5,000 from outside activities AND whose activity may reasonably appear to be a conflict of interest and/or commitment need to report their compensation (explicitly stated in the guidance and in the OAP).


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