Conflicts of interest
This is defined as a conflict between the private interests of an individual and the official responsibilities of a person in a position of trust; that is financial, fiduciary, personal or other interests. It includes the interests of close or direct family members (spouses, children) and interests in external organisations, businesses, practices or firms that may give rise to a conflict for an individual in a decision-making position, or members of staff.
UCT has adopted policies and procedures that identify and manage conflicts of interest to promote good governance and objectivity in research. These policies define conflicts of interest as well as conflicts of commitment relating to activities undertaken in a person’s capacity as researcher, staff, agent, or other affiliate of the university.
Policies and procedures for conflicts of interest are necessary because:
- the Higher Education Act and UCT’s institutional statute require them
- the citizenry and public stakeholders (including research funding agencies) have a legitimate expectation that the university will both conduct, and be seen to conduct, its affairs (including all research) with integrity and objectivity.
- Investigators must undertake and retain documentation of training in financial conflicts of interest.
- Training must be completed before engaging in research, and at least once every four years after that for the duration of the investigator’s affiliation(s) with UCT.
- Training is separately required when UCT revises its policy or procedures in a manner that impacts investigators and following any determination of an investigator’s noncompliance with the UCT’s policy or a management plan associated with a disclosed conflict of interest.
Training options provided by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) include a free tutorial.
Declaring a conflict of interest
Investigators must also, unless they have already done this as staff, and before they start a research project – or, in the case of funded research, before the date of an application or submission for funding – declare any business, commercial or financial activities undertaken for significant financial gain that may raise a conflict or a possible conflict of interest with sponsors or entities affected by the research.
The research contract, grant or award may require a new disclosure form and may also require disclosure by all study participants, whether these are staff or not. In such cases the onus is on the principal investigator (PI) to ensure that these disclosures are made.
Conflict of interest resources
National Institutes of Health (NIH) financial conflict of interest tutorial: The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Extramural Research has launched a free online tutorial for training on financial conflicts of interest. The tutorial provides documentation in the form of a certificate, which is very important for regulatory compliance.
Frequently asked questions - reportable financial interests on conflicts of interest at UCT: guidelines for completing forms HR130/HR131
Managed conflicts of interest
Through this website UCT ensures public accessibility to information for all disclosures made by a researcher and/or related to research projects that present an identifiable conflict of interest.
For more information on research integrity contact the Office of Research Integrity