Skip to main content
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Conflict of Commitment policy supports staff compliance

Beginning April 30, 2021, a new conflict of interest policy will take effect at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The Conflict of Commitment policy provides information and guidance pertaining to outside professional activities that may interfere with the ability of unclassified staff to fulfill university expectations, obligations and responsibilities.

This new policy, overseen by the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education, is designed to help staff ensure that they are in compliance with state law and University System conflict of interest rules.

While the Conflict of Commitment policy relates to a conflict of time, it complements the Financial Conflict of Interest policy.

The policy also addresses material conflicts. Examples of material conflicts may be, but are not limited to, serving as a principal investigator or co-PI on a grant-funded project for another entity without an agreement with UW, teaching a course or courses for another college or university, or being unable to fulfill service to the institution because of time commitments to an outside activity.

“UW–Madison’s expectation is that the primary professional skills, obligations and work effort of its employees are committed to UW–Madison,” explains Brian Fox, chair of the Department of Biochemistry and associate vice chancellor for research policy and integrity.

According to UW System’s Unclassified Staff Code of Ethics, at the time of appointment, every member of the unclassified staff makes a personal commitment to professional honesty and integrity. University unclassified staff are responsible for teaching, research or other scholarly activity appropriate to the discipline, and service to the institution and the public. University unclassified staff that are meeting expectations of employment have the privilege to engage in outside activities with appropriate approval and oversight.”

The Conflict of Commitment policy has been presented to the University Committee, the Academic Staff Executive Committee and the Deans Council, who have endorsed it.

“The importance of outside activities at UW–Madison is captured in the Wisconsin Idea, where knowledge gained from academic enterprise is shared to benefit society,” says Diana Hess, dean of the School of Education. “This policy helps staff navigate these activities and ensures that they are appropriately managed before any conflict occurs.”

“External work isn’t being discouraged by implementation of this policy, however, we are trying to ensure that deans and other supervisors are aware of external commitment that may appear to conflict with the roles and responsibilities of faculty and academic staff,” says Beth Meyerand, vice provost for faculty and staff affairs.

The Conflict of Commitment policy serves as a complement to the Outside Activities Report that all faculty — regardless of appointment, all academic staff with 50% or greater appointment, and all individuals listed as participants on human subject protocols or on federal grants are still required to fill out annually, and which must be kept updated to reflect any new outside activities.

Outside professional activities represent any activities related to an unclassified staff member’s institutional responsibilities that they are engaged in outside of the scope of University employment, whether or not the unclassified staff member is compensated for such activities.

Examples of reportable outside professional activities include, but are not limited to: teaching, research, or administrative activities at an educational institution, organization, government agency, foundation, or any other entity outside of the university; employment outside of the university; playing a role in founding a company or in a company’s ongoing operations; providing consulting services outside of the university; serving on a board of directors or in an executive or managerial position for an entity outside of the university for an organization that is not directly university-related or that is not a professional association in the unclassified staff members’ field; serving on a scientific advisory board for a company; serving as an expert witness; and presenting at a symposium or workshop on behalf of a company.

The policy can be found on the Policy Library website. Frequently asked questions about the new policy may be found on the research website.