Research Knowledge Base
Frequently Asked Questions about Conflict of Interest
Table of Contents
What is a Conflict of Interest?
A Conflict of Interest (COI) exists when an investigator has a significant financial interest (SFI) that could lead an independent observer to reasonably question whether the design, conduct or reporting of research might be influenced by the possibility of personal gain. "Personal gain" encompasses direct, personal benefits AND benefits to an individual's immediate family.
COIs simply represent a state of affairs, not behavior. If the COI Committee determines an investigator has a COI, it does not imply wrongdoing on anybody's part.
What is a Significant Financial Interest (SFI)?
A Significant Financial Interest (SFI) is a financial interest that is held: (1) by an individual or a member an individual's immediate family; or (2) by a business entity that is controlled or directed by an individual or a member of an individual's immediate family.
To be significant, the financial interest has to reasonably be related to the individual's institutional responsibilities at UW–Madison, and also needs to meet one of the follow criteria:
For publicly traded entities:
The value of remuneration received from the entity in the twelve months preceding the disclosure in combination with the value of any equity interest in the entity as of the date of disclosure exceeds $5,000.
For non-publicly traded entities:
The value of any remuneration received from the entity in the twelve months preceding disclosure, when aggregated, exceeds $5,000
The investigator holds any equity interest in the entity
Any income from intellectual property rights that are not assigned to organizations created to manage such rights on behalf of the University of Wisconsin–Madison;
Service in positions with fiduciary responsibility. This includes executive positions, senior management, or membership on boards of directors; and
For those that receive federal funding, reimbursed or sponsored travel.
Outside Activities Reporting
Who must complete an Outside Activities Report (OAR)?
Chapter 8 of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents requires all faculty (regardless of appointment) and all academic staff with a 50% or greater appointment to annually file an OAR. Individuals with active management plans from the COI Committee must file annually as well.
Additionally, Public Health Service (PHS) regulations and University of Wisconsin–Madison policy require all individuals listed on human subjects protocols or federal grants to file OARs annually and whenever they undertake new outside activities. See 42 C.F.R. Part 50, Subpart F.
Lastly, fellows, grad students, and post-docs who participate in research or service arrangements with non-federal entities in order to comply with State of Wisconsin law.
What is reportable in my OAR?
All outside activities related to your institutional responsibilities should be reported, including your spouse's or immediate family's outside activities.
The term "institutional responsibilities" encompasses all of your professional responsibilities at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, including: research, instruction, extension/outreach, and administrative activities.
When is it appropriate for me to report updates to my OAR?
Faculty and academic staff are responsible for updating their reports anytime there is a relevant change in their outside activities (e.g. new relationships with outside organizations or increased compensation for an on-going activity). An updated version of the outside activity report may be completed at any time during the year by logging back into the Outside Activities Report.
What should I do when a relationship with an outside activity has ended?
Update your OAR to record the end date of the activity. You may log back into your Outside Activities Report. If you have a Management Plan for the activity that has ended, please notify the COI Program and they will terminate your Management Plan.
Can I file an OAR for another person?
No. Each individual must log in with their own NetID and password to file an OAR. In addition, you must certify that all of the information is accurate before submitting your OAR.
Who can you contact if you need assistance filing your OAR?
You can find the CIO contact for your School, College or Division here: Individual Conflict of Interest: Whom to Contact for Assistance If you need additional help, please contact the COI Program at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do I have to report travel in my OAR?
If you have federally funded research, you must report sponsored or reimbursed travel on your OAR, including travel sponsored by institutions of higher education, foreign or domestic. If your travel is paid through the UW's e-reimbursement system, you do not need to report it.
I need to report foreign visiting scholars/visiting students as research support on my OAR. How should I report it?
You should report the foreign university where the visitor is from and the foreign government agency sponsoring the visitor, if any on your OAR. On the entity question page, check the "other" box for question #7 and type in text box, the names of the visitors, their relationship to your research, and the approximate dates of the visit. If applicable, also check "yes" for question #6.
I was assigned a management plan, what should I do next?
There are 4 things to do at this time. First, follow the instructions in the email to accept you management plan. Second, schedule a meeting with your Chair or Director to make them aware of your management plan and to discuss the requirements of the plan. Third, draft a notification letter to staff and students you supervise and all co-investigators on grants to inform them of your outside activity. Finally, you must provide a copy of the management plan to a reviewing IRB within 30 days of the assignment of the plan if it relates to the study. You will receive an email outlining these steps when a Management Plan is issued by the COI Committee.
What happens if I disagree with the requirement for a management plan?
If you disagree with the assignment of a Management Plan, please contact your Dean's Office . While reasonable efforts will be made to process your appeal as expeditiously as possible, please note that the appeal process may delay spending on Public Health Service (PHS) awards.
How does my management plan impact protocol submission?
If you have a Management Plan, your protocol submission may be affected. Absent written approval from the COI Committee, you cannot serve as principal investigator (PI), co-investigator (co-I), or key personnel for a human subjects protocol reviewed by a UW–Madison IRB if the entity which has been assigned a Management Plan: a) sponsors the study, or b) owns or licenses a technology tested in the study. You may work with you Dean's Office to apply for an exception to this provision.
How do I apply for an exception to my Management Plan?
You must work with your Dean's Office to request an exception from the COI Committee. For more information see Financial Conflict of Interest Policy and Procedures: Guidance Document.
What is the Online COI Training Course?
It consists of 4 modules covering the UW–Madison Conflict of Interest Policy and its requirements. The results can take up to 24 hours to appear in the Training Lookup Tool.
Do I have to complete the Online COI Training Course?
If you receive federally funded awards or are conducting human subjects research, you must complete the COI Training course at least once every 4 years. You access the COI Training course via Canvas using your NetID and password. For further details, Conflict of Interest Training Course.
What is the first step I need to take as a subrecipient?
If you do not have your own Public Health Service-compliant (PHS) COI Policy, you must follow the UW–Madison's COI Policy. This means you must file an OAR and take the COI Training course. In order to do so, you will need a UW NetID and password. The UW Conflict of Interest Program will assist you in obtaining a NetID from the UW Department of Information Technology. To request a NetID, please click Subrecipient NetID.
If I am on a PHS grant, what are my COI related responsibilities for award setup?
If you receive a Notice of Award for a PHS funded grant, you will need to do 2 things. First, if you have not filed an OAR for the current calendar year, you will need to file an Outside Activities Report. Second, you must take the COI Training course if you have not completed the course in the past four years. You may access the course by self-registering via Canvas.
Keywords: conflict interest outside activity management plan travel reporting coi training subrecipients award setup