As an employer, the University starts from a position of trusting the professionalism of the staff it employs, and this trust underlies any attempt to handle questions which raise potential conflicts of interest. Yet the damage to the reputations of individuals and the University caused by conflicts of interest could be considerable, e.g. where the press cast doubt on the validity of an academic's research findings owing to the academic being discovered to have had a financial interest with the sponsor.
In order to protect individual staff members and the University from compromise, it is both necessary and helpful to settle a policy to deal with Conflicts of Interest. The University has therefore decided to issue three documents:
Conflicts of interest could arise in many circumstances and it is not possible to provide a single definition to cover them all. A conflict of interest may be defined as including:
"a conflict between the official responsibilities of a person in a position of trust and any other interests the particular individual may have, e.g. where the individual could be seen to be influencing University matters for actual or potential personal benefit, or seeking such a gain at the expense of the University."
The press illustration, above, highlights another important issue. The definition is not restricted to those cases in which an individual actually betrays that trust; it can be just as damaging for the conflict to exist or appear to exist. It should be emphasised that the University's policy on conflicts of interest does not imply any lack of trust in, or loyalty of, academic colleagues. Rather, it is a mechanism for protecting University employees against criticism or compromise by ensuring that they recognise and disclose such conflict situations and take steps to avoid and manage them.
Should any member of University staff feel they are in a position giving rise to an actual or potential conflict of interest, they must contact their line manager as a matter of urgency. Appropriate steps will then be taken to deal with the conflict of interest situation in line with the University's Conflicts of Interest Policy.
In summary, the Conflicts of Interest Policy provides for a three-fold approach:
The guidelines, detail the principles behind the Conflicts of Interest Policy and have examples of some of the commoner situations which might arise.