Conflict of Interest
Disclosing and management of the conflict of interest
Conflicts of interest can arise naturally from a staff member’s engagement with the world outside of the University. The mere existence of a conflict of interest does not necessarily imply wrongdoing on anyone's part. However, in an academic environment where entrepreneurial and commercial practices are increasingly encouraged, it is essential that University research is carried out (and is seen to be carried out) in an impartial and independent manner, and is not compromised by any commercial activity.
Researchers should clearly articulate actual, perceived or potential conflicts of interest and how these will be managed when developing research projects and methodologies for submission to any of the compliance committees.
A conflict of interest is a situation where there is an actual, potential or perceived divergence between the individual interests of an employee and his/her professional and work-related obligations to the University, such that an independent observer might reasonably question that the employee's conduct may have been influenced by his or her own private interests or personal circumstances.
Staff are required to take reasonable steps to avoid actual, potential or perceived conflicts of interest between their private interests and the interests of the University.
If a situation that may give rise to an actual, potential or perceived conflict of interest exists or staff are unsure whether such a situation exists, the disclosure must be made to their immediate supervisor or another senior officer within their Faculty, Division, Office or Centre, and staff must withdraw themselves immediately and indefinitely from the situation unless authorised to act otherwise.
Staff in supervisory positions must be especially alert to the various situations in which conflicts of interest may arise in the workplace and handle such situations in a sensitive manner.
According to the Conflict of Interest Procedure, relating to the conduct of research (Part J), a conflict of interest may arise where an employee has the ability, opportunity or the potential to gain a financial benefit or other advantage through the management of, or the outcomes achieved from, the conduct of research. Charles Sturt University expects researchers to disclose and manage actual, perceived or potential conflicts of interest.
Examples, where a potential conflict of interest could occur in research and should be raised as an issue to manage would include:
- When an employee undertakes research for an external organisation that the employee has a financial or other interest;
- An employee owns property or infrastructure on which a research project is carried out or utilises;
- An employee owns animals or products that will be used in a research project.
The Conflict of Interest Guide checklist could assist in determining whether you have an actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest or highlight a need to seek further advice.
What is a Conflict of Interest?
The 2018 Code defines a conflict of interest as a situation where an independent observer might reasonably conclude that the professional actions of a person are or may be unduly influenced by other interests. This refers to a financial or non-financial interest that may be a perceived, potential or actual conflict of interest.
A conflict of interest may compromise, or have the appearance of compromising, an employee's professional judgment in conducting, evaluating, or reporting on research. It may affect, or be seen to affect, not only the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, but also the hiring of staff, procurement of materials, sharing of results, choice of licensees, choice of protocol, the involvement of human subjects, and the use of statistical methods.
- National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (Chapter 5.4)
- ARC Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Policy
- NHMRC Disclosure and management of interests policies and guidance: