Frequently Asked Questions
Conflict of Interest and Consulting Annual Reporting
- The Reporting Process
- Classified Employees
- Consulting, Outside Work, and Conflicts of Interest
- Charitable or Professional Interests
- Family Members (Nepotism)
- Intellectual Property Ownership and Equity
- Teaching & Tutoring
- 2012 Policy Changes
A: For 2015, the qualifying employees who received the email reminder may fill out their reports in MyInfo between September 9 and October 14. This covers all activities that occurred in the past year: September 1, 2014 through August 31, 2015. The next annual reporting period will open September 2016. However, you should disclose new conflicts of interest as they arise at anytime throughout the year using the online form or by contacting the ORC. The ORC will evaluate the situation to determine if the conflict is significant, must be eliminated, or can be managed by a Management Plan.
A: If you have successfully completed your Conflict of Interest Report and clicked "Submit" in MyInfo, you should no longer be receiving reminders. Contact the ORC for assistance.
A: The Conflict of Interest Policy provides that employees may be subject to discipline for failure to report.
A: Yes. You can still report because you can access the on-line reporting through MyInfo remotely from any internet access.
A: September 1 of the previous year through August 31 of the current year. Disclose any activities that have fallen within this date range. Again, you should also disclose new conflicts of interest as they arise at anytime throughout the year.
A: Yes. All MSU employees of .5 FTE or greater (EXCEPT Classified employees) are required to file an annual report. On the form in MyInfo, check the box that says, "I have a potential conflict of interest which has been duly disclosed previously, and there has been no change which requires an updated disclosure."
A: While classified employees do not have to submit an annual conflict of interest report, all employees, including classified, are subject to conflict of interest laws and policy and must disclose potential conflicts as they occur. State law and MSU policy require disclosure of any relationship that may conflict with your duties and responsibilities at MSU. Disclose new conflicts at any time using the online form or by contacting the ORC directly. The ORC will evaluate the situation to determine if the conflict is significant, must be eliminated, or can be managed by a Management Plan.
A: Consulting is any additional activity beyond duties assigned by the institution, professional in nature and based in the appropriate discipline, for which the individual receives additional personal remuneration during the contract year. Remuneration for consulting is paid by agencies or individuals outside the University and the funds upon which consulting payments are drawn are not controlled by the University.
A: It depends. If you do comply with the Interim Faculty Consulting Policy in that you limit the time to the policy constraints, use no MSU resources or, if you do, you reimburse MSU for using them, you do not need report your consulting on the conflict of interest report. If the consultation is directly related to your role at MSU, it could create a conflict of interest and should be reported as such. See other consulting circumstances below that might indicate a conflict of interest.
You will need to report your consulting on the annual Consulting Activities Report because we must report these numbers to the state per BOR Policy 401.1.
All 1.0 FTE faculty are provided with 1 day per week (20%) of their time to devote to consulting. Beyond this, employees may ask their supervisors to take annual leave or leave without pay for the private consulting work.
A: This should first be cleared by your department head and dean. Faculty are expected to devote 100% of their effort to MSU as an employee (full effort of whatever the FTE). Tenure Track Faculty are also expected to do research in addition to teaching their classes. Having another job may detract from the ability to accomplish your full potential at MSU. However, faculty are allowed consulting for up to 20% of their time per MSU Interim Faculty Personnel Policy 800.00, and faculty are allowed to do overload work for up to 20% (compensation proportional to time).
If you are NTT, then as long as you are providing high quality teaching and experiences for students, it seems like you can take on other work.
The first point of contact on this should be the department head and dean to ensure that there are no conflicts of commitment and that the expectations of the primary MSU responsibilities come first. If the outside work is related to your MSU duties or falls into one of the situations below, the second step is to establish a Management Plan.
A: Yes. If your consulting could create a conflict with your duties and responsibilities at MSU, it should be reported as a potential conflict of interest to the ORC. Typically a Management Plan is developed to mitigate these concerns. Some examples of consulting circumstances that should prompt disclosure are:
- If your consulting work is directly related to your work for MSU (for example, same research or area of expertise)
- If you perform sponsored research, and the results could benefit or harm a company you consult for
- If you plan to use or rent MSU facilities or resources
- If you plan to use MSU students
- If the company you consult for has any relationship with MSU
- If the project will take up significant time normally devoted to your MSU job
- If it is not clear to an independent observer which party you are representing while consulting
A: Only if the outside employment conflicts in some way with your duties and responsibilities at MSU. For example, if, in your work for your other employer, you performed consulting services to your MSU department, that would raise the potential for conflict and must be reported. Your work for the outside interest must be done on your personal time, unless you have prearranged with a supervisor to apply accrued annual leave or leave without pay to any travel or work during your MSU standard work schedule. See the Outside Consulting Policy for Classified and Professionals.
A: No. If you are a paid state employee of MSU, you cannot also privately do work for the state and receive payment. This is a financial conflict of interest and "double dipping." If the work is different and beyond the scope of your current MSU position, some options to complete the work within the constructs of your MSU position are salary adjustment or additional compensation. You can consult and work for other private companies or institutions, and this should be supported by a Management Plan if the work is similar or related to your position at MSU.
A: If you perform research sponsored by the U.S. Public Health Service (including NIH), you have additional reporting obligations concerning payment for travel by third parties beyond checking for conflicts of interest. You will report this on the Office Of Sponsored Program's e-Proposal Clearance Form (e-PCF) during initial grant application.
Another consideration is representation. You may acknowledge both of your roles (MSU and the outside interest) when listing your credentials at any time. But be sure to distinguish the party on whose behalf you are acting when it comes to paying for travel.
- When you are acting on behalf of MSU, use MSU time, fill out MSU Travel Authorizations, and receive state reimbursement. Personal stipends for these activities should not “double-up” on the same reimbursements received from MSU. Honorariums and sponsored travel are not generally conflicts of interest but should be reported on any MSU proposal or grant forms.
- When you are representing a third party, that party shall be responsible for travel expenses and reimbursements.
A: Generally, no. However, here are special rules about reporting travel for researchers performing U.S. Public Health Service (including NIH) research that are not a part of your annual reporting obligations. Report your sponsored travel on the OSP e-PCF. You may also be required to disclose this during research projects or presentations per your grant guidelines.
A: Only if the interests of the business paying you somehow conflict with your MSU duties—for example, if your sponsored research could harm or benefit that business. However, remember that you would have to report that speaking engagement on your annual consulting activities form. Again, there are additional rules related to U.S. Public Health Service (including NIH) researchers which may require disclosure on the OSP e-PCF and during the research project.
A: No, except for researchers funded by grants from the U.S. Public Health Service (including NIH), and as noted below, special rules require that they disclose reimbursed or sponsored travel. However, that disclosure is not made in the annual disclosure process, it is made as part of the sponsored research disclosure process, either on the OSP e-PCF initially or as the travel occurs during the project.
A: "Nepotism" is defined by state statute as "the bestowal of political patronage by reason of relationship rather than merit." Section 2-2-301, MCA. The purpose of nepotism statutes is to prevent favoritism and conflicts of interest by public agencies in hiring and to make hiring decisions based upon merit rather than relationship.
No employee of Montana State University may participate in decisions which would involve a direct benefit or detriment (appointment, hiring, retention, promotion, salary, leave of absence) to a relative [as defined by the policy]. If a relative applies for a position which is supervised by a relative, the immediate senior to such a supervisor or other designated authority will be responsible for instituting any special procedures required to assure consideration based solely on merit. "Relative," for the purposes of this policy, means parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, child, grandchild, great-grandchild, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or cousin, by blood relationship; spouse; or brother, sister, parent, or child of spouse; or spouse of one's brother, sister, parent or child. (Sections 2-2-302 and 303 M.C.A.)
See the full MSU Nepotism Policy
See Legal Counsel's summarized research on Nepotism here
A: It depends. If a suitable plan can be established to assure that you do not make employment decisions concerning your spouse, he/she may continue to work as an adjunct in your department. However, if you are the only person who can reasonably supervise your spouse and make employment decisions, it may not be possible for your spouse to be employed in your department.
A: No. You have no participation in employment decisions concerning your daughter, so you need not disclose the relationship.
A: Usually no. If the PI would have a position of authority over his/her spouse, this is violation of the Nepotism Policy because the PI writes personnel into proposals (thereby appointing) and writes the budget (determining payment). If a relative is specifically sought due to academic expertise, you can apply for a nepotism exemption. PIs must submit documentation for approval that demonstrates legitimacy to their Department Head, Dean, Provost, and VP for Research including the appointee's vita, justification as demonstrated by the candidate's experience and/or training, and a summary of the steps taken to seek and consider other qualified candidates. See Policy section 430.40.
However, if the spouses are co-PIs, this is permissible because they are co-managers without one having authority over the other. Co-PIs should follow normal grant supervisory controls set up by the sponsoring agency to ensure reasonable compensation and work load.
In either situation, the related employees should have a Management Plan in place for transparency and oversight. Some federal sponsoring agencies have additional COI rules beyond MSU policy, but most defer to the institution to have an active conflicts management program. If you plan to include any relatives or anyone with whom you are involved in a consensual romantic relationship in your sponsored research project, you should disclose this on the OSP e-PCF.
A: Yes, please acknowledge that you have intellectual property rights on the annual form. However, royalties paid to inventors by MSU are not conflicts of interest and are part of the university technology transfer process. Conflicts do have the potential to develop if you wish to create or participate in a business that utilizes the IP.
A: If technology is created at MSU, it is University-owned. Work with the Technology Transfer Office to license the intellectual property to your start-up. If you wish to participate in this business (become an owner, employee, board member, or have equity interest), you must gain Board of Regents approval per Policy 407: "The goal of this policy is to allow intellectual property created by university system employees to be disseminated and utilized in a fashion mutually advantageous to the state, the university system, the business entity, and the employee." Contact the ORC to fill out and submit the Joint Venture Submission Form for BOR review. A 407 submission will also require an MSU Management Plan. Note that you typically cannot participate in the same sponsored research project or contract at MSU in any capacity if you have a private interest in that project, unless specified by the grant.
A. The purpose of the 407 is to allow inventor participation in a business that utilizes MSU technology. This means you can continue to receive royalties on your MSU owned inventions and also have influence in a private business (equity, employment, board) that licenses that technology – without a conflict of interest. This was implemented in the early 2000s as an exception to state laws that prohibited such participation. However, the policy doesn’t allow for continued participation at MSU on the same funded project, that is, contracting to yourself. (A 407 submission will also require an MSU Management Plan.)
See BOR Policy 407, which implements MCA 20-25-109. At the bottom of that Montana Code page, you will see links to the other sections that are exempted by this allowance of a State of Montana public employee inventor to participate in private business that licenses technologies from which the inventor receives royalties:
- 2-2-104. Rules of conduct for public officers, legislators, and public employees.
- 2-2-105. Ethical requirements for public officers and public employees.
- 2-2-121. Rules of conduct for public officers and public employees.
- 2-2-201. Public officers, employees, and former employees not to have interest in contracts.
Q. Here are the ways that you and MSU can have involvement and avoid conflicts:
- Assign an alternate PI for the work at MSU. The alternate MSU PI is not an employee
regularly under your supervision. You are solely representing the company in all interactions.
- Establish a Management Plan with the ORC.
- Be able to demonstrate that you have zero part in the work that is happening in your MSU lab, including supervision of your lab personnel while they are working on the company contract work.
- Your Conflicts Plan Manager must be comfortable signing off on this arrangement as demonstrably manageable (case will likely need more oversight than a once per year check).
- The company executes a Facilities/Equipment Use Agreement with MSU (handled through TTO). This means that you, as a representative of the company, can do the work yourself at your own MSU lab (and/or with company personnel) via a rental agreement. However, you still couldn’t utilize the MSU employees that you normally supervise at the university.
A: Yes. This is directly related to your area of expertise and your job at MSU. Work with the ORC to develop a Management Plan that will demonstrate a clear separation between the two.
A: No. This is a conflict of interest.
A: Yes. Because the outside work is so similar to your MSU work, a Management Plan is advised for transparency and oversight.
A: Under the policy, you must report on the annual report Significant Financial Interests which directly relate to your University responsibilities. The updates to the policy have changed the monetary thresholds for determining a Significant Financial Interest (SFI). The old policy provided that the monetary interest in an outside business must be reported if it was $10,000 or greater. That amount has been REDUCED to $5,000. However, if the interest is in a privately held company (e.g., not a stock-exchange traded company) ANY interest in such a company directly related to your University responsibilities must be reported.
A: Yes. However, most of those changes relate to reporting by sponsored research Principal Investigators in in the OSP e-Proposal Clearance Form. MSU sponsored research investigators received special training on the changes to sponsored research COI disclosure in April, 2012.