Conflict of interest is a situation in which an employee or their family member's external financial, professional, or other personal consideration may directly or indirectly affect, or have the appearance of affecting, the employee's professional judgement in exercising any university duty or responsibility. A conflict of commitment involves a situation in which an employee engages in an outside professional activity that involves a commitment of time that may interfere, or appear to interfere, with fulfillment of the employee's obligations to the university.
The following are reasons that the university cares about conflict of interest and commitment:
Public Trust and Confidence
As a non-profit institution serving the public good, the university and its constituents have the right to expect that employees should avoid any circumstances in conflict, or that appear to be in conflict, with their institutional responsibilities, and that there be no conflict between duty to the institution and self interest.
Individual and Institutional Reputations
Without a robust conflict of interest and commitment disclosure and review process, individual and institutional reputations could be harmed.
The university must gather certain information required by external funding agencies and for some populations, information used by the university to complete the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) Form 990. Additional information and resources related to federal regulations requiring disclosures in research can be found on the Office of Research Integrity's webpage.
Protecting You and GW
Most importantly, conflict of interest and commitment policies and processes are meant to protect the employee and the institution. They protect the interests of the university and the interests of the employee who is disclosing.