Policy on Outside Interests, Relationships, and Professional Activities
All GW Faculty, Staff, Investigators, and Executives, collectively “GW Employees.”
Increasingly, private industry, federal and state governments, and the non-profit sector rely on contributions from higher education institutions. Such contributions allow GW Employees to use their expertise constructively, to strengthen their competence through a greater variety of professional experiences, to enhance the reputation of the employee and institution, and to serve the public interest. Outside professional activities, interests, and relationships that support the university’s mission and its commitment to a robust and innovative community while maintaining the highest ethical standards are generally accepted but may necessitate guidance or management.
Conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment may occur when there is a divergence between an individual’s private interests and their professional responsibilities to the university. The identification of a potential, perceived, or actual conflict of interest or conflict of commitment does not imply wrongdoing. While there may be circumstances in which the university determines that a conflict cannot be managed, the university will make every effort to help GW Employees manage and mitigate potential, actual, or perceived conflicts.
The university and GW Employees have a shared interest in assuring the institutional integrity of the university as well as the personal and professional integrity of individuals. As such, this policy establishes expectations and mechanisms for identifying and addressing actual, potential, or perceived conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment that pertain to conducting academic, research, and administrative activities in a fair and unbiased manner.
Section One: General Expectations and Requirements outlines requirements and expectations for all GW Employees. Unique requirements and expectations for specific roles are outlined in addenda in Section Two: Role-Specific Expectations and Requirements.
Conflicts of Interest: Situations in which a GW Employee’s financial, professional, or other personal situations directly or indirectly affect, or have the appearance of affecting, their professional judgment in exercising any university duty or responsibility.
Conflicts of Commitment: A conflict of commitment refers to a situation in which a GW Employee engages in an outside professional activity, paid or unpaid, that compromises, or appears to compromise, their ability to perform their duties for the university.
Outside Professional Activity: Activities external to GW as a result of the GW Employee’s professional expertise that may bring professional benefit and/or personal gain. Outside professional activities may also include engagements with entities that directly compete with the university or draw upon the role of the GW Employee at the university. Outside professional activities do not include external activities in which the GW Employee is serving as a representative of GW, are expected as part of their role, defined within their employment agreement, or requested by the GW Employee’s supervisor. GW Employees should consult their supervisor, or refer to their employment agreement as applicable, should guidance be needed as to whether an activity is a part of their GW role.
Gift: A tangible or intangible thing, service, or item of value which is transferred for less than its fair market value. A gift may include travel, meal, lodging, service, entertainment, payment of expense, or any other thing.
The following general expectations are applicable to all GW Employees and aim to eliminate or mitigate actual, potential, or perceived conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment.
GW Employees shall…
- Abide by the standards set forth in this policy as well as the addenda specific to their GW role;
- Remain aware of the potential for actual, potential, or perceived conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment when pursuing outside professional activities, interests, or relationships, and seek guidance should there be a question about whether an outside activity, interest, or relationship is permitted under this policy and role-specific addenda;
Disclose outside professional activities, interests, and relationships as requested and as they arise;
- Participate in periodic and ad-hoc disclosure processes;
- Participate in periodic training on conflict of interest and conflict of commitment and ensure understanding of expectations set forth in this policy;
GW Employees shall not…
- Use university personnel, equipment, or services for personal gain except incidental, reasonable use as referenced in the Personal Use of University Resources Policy;
- Be involved in decisions concerning the purchasing or contracting of goods or services for the university if their interests or relationships with a potential or committed vendor/contractor conflict with, or reasonably appear to conflict with, their duty to act in the university’s best interests. This includes interests held by family members or anyone the GW Employee has a personal relationship with;
- Participate in outside professional activities that interfere with the performance of their regular duties and time commitment to the university;
- Personally compete with the university for work that is perceived as being work that the university would choose to perform. The university should not be deprived of appropriate potential financial gain in favor of personal gain;
- Engage in the purchase or sale of securities or real or personal property that is based on confidential information or special knowledge of the university’s investment intentions;
- Disclose, use, sell, or access proprietary information (i.e. intellectual property owned in part or in total by the university), or information only known as a result of their university role, in outside professional interests, activities, or relationships, or accept money or gift from an outside entity if it is reasonably believed acceptance will result in the disclosure of proprietary information, unless specific permission is granted;
- Accept any
gifts with a value exceeding $250.00 from any person or entity doing business or seeking to do business with the university, unless approval is received from their manager and the Office of Ethics, Compliance, and Risk. The appropriate Vice President may be consulted as needed. Gifts of cash or cash equivalents in any amount may not be accepted, except that bona fide awards or honoraria may be accepted if approved under this policy. The phrase "any person or entity doing business or seeking to do business" shall not be construed to include federal, state or local governmental entities or nonprofit professional membership organizations. Family members of the GW Employee shall refrain from accepting any gift that the GW Employee may not accept under this policy.
- Engage in any outside professional activities, interests, or relationships that could be an actual, potential, or perceived conflict of interest or conflict of commitment without prior disclosure, review, approval, and adherence to any required management plan, if necessary.
Throughout the year, all GW Employees must disclose outside professional activities, interests, and relationships that may actually, potentially, or have the perception of, creating a conflict of interest or conflict of commitment to their manager and the Office of Ethics, Compliance, and Risk as requested and as they arise. Periodically, identified GW Employees shall complete a Disclosure Form providing information about their outside professional activities and any related interests and relationships. Related means relating to the individual’s institutional roles and activities with the university. Disclosures should be updated, modified, or supplemented as needed between disclosure requests.
GW Employees may also be asked to disclose any outside professional activities involving a Foreign Talent Recruitment Program, foreign institution of higher education, foreign academic teaching hospital, and/or government, at any level, of a foreign country.
Disclosures will be reviewed to determine whether an actual, potential, or perceived conflict of interest or conflict of commitment exists and what conditions or restrictions, if any, should be imposed in order to manage, reduce, or eliminate the conflict. GW Employees are expected to provide additional information if additional details are requested.
If the result of a disclosure review is the determination that an outside professional activity, interest, or relationship needs to be managed, a management plan will be established outlining steps that to be taken by the GW Employee and their supervisor to manage, reduce, or eliminate the conflict. The GW Employee and managerial chain of command are signatories to the management plan. The GW Employee is responsible for compliance with the plan and must notify their manager, in writing, of any changes to the circumstances outlined in the plan. The GW Employee’s failure to notify of changes, or failure to comply with the plan, would be a material breach of both this policy and the plan, and may result in disciplinary action. The manager is responsible for overseeing compliance with the plan.
Penalties for deliberate violations of this policy will be adjudicated in accordance with applicable disciplinary policies and procedures in the Employee Handbook, Faculty Code, or Librarian Code, as applicable.
The Office of Ethics, Compliance, and Risk is responsible for overseeing implementation of and ensuring compliance with this policy. The Office of Ethics, Compliance, and Risk is also responsible for maintaining the records pertaining to disclosure, oversight, and management. The Office for the Vice Provost of Research is responsible for executing the process for compliance with the addendum of this policy specific to Investigators and maintaining disclosure records related to funded research. Other units may be consulted as appropriate.
Related Policies for all GW Employees
In addition to the general expectations and disclosure requirements for all GW Employees outlined in Section One, the university recognizes that there are additional responsibilities depending on the role of the GW Employee. Therefore, the following addenda outline expectations and requirements specific to a GW Employee’s university role. It is possible that a GW Employee fits more than one role at the university and must follow the expectations and requirements outlined in more than one addendum. If a GW Employee does not fill a role with a supplemental addendum, they must solely comply with the expectations and requirements outlined in Section One. Trustees are governed by the Trustee Conflicts of Interest Policy.
- Addendum A: Faculty
The terms “Faculty” and “Faculty Member” mean those individuals defined in the GW Faculty Code, section I, subsections B. Regular Faculty, C. Specialized Faculty, D. Visiting Faculty, and E. Part Time Faculty.
General Requirements for Faculty
The Faculty Code Section I. B. states, “Faculty shall have a primary responsibility of devoting their time, thought, and energy to service of the University.” Of no less importance is a Faculty Member’s responsibility to further their own professional development and the goals of their professional discipline. Normally, a Faculty Member’s participation in activities of governmental, industrial, and professional institutions is consistent with academic interest of the university and the Faculty Member. However, outside professional activities, interests, and relationships must not distract significantly from primary responsibilities and must not require such extensive absence as to cause the Faculty Member to neglect course obligations or become unavailable to students and colleagues. Outside professional activities, interests, and relationships must be of such nature and conducted in such manner as will not bring discredit to the university and must not compromise any intellectual property owned by the university.
Time toward Outside Professional Activities
A full-time Faculty Member may spend the equivalent of up to one working day a week on average during the academic year on outside professional activities provided such commitments do not interfere with primary university obligations. Notwithstanding the one working day for outside professional activities during the academic year, all Faculty are expected to manage their outside professional activities so as to ensure that all university responsibilities are met. Department chairs, or unit heads for academic units without a department chair, and deans are responsible for ensuring compliance with this rule. Additional guidance is available.
General Expectations for Faculty
In addition to the general expectations for all GW Employees, the following are additional expectations specific to Faculty:
- Conducting research or teaching outside of the university has the potential to compete with the university’s own offerings and opportunities. The Faculty Code, section III. F. states, “No such member of the Faculty shall accept an outside teaching appointment during the academic year or engage in any other regular activity of a remunerative nature without the approval of the university.” Approval for outside teaching appointments or regular academic activities, including outside research, must be authorized by: (1) department chair, or unit head for academic units without a department chair, (2) dean or dean delegate, (3) provost or provost delegate.
- In a course taught by a Faculty Member, the assignment of a required textbook they authored, or of intellectual property they prepared, may be perceived as obtaining financial gain for themselves unless an objective review is conducted to determine its appropriateness. To address the perception of a conflict, it is recommended that approval be obtained through a departmental or school/college review of the intellectual property in question.
- Faculty may not receive outside financial incentives that distort scholarly activity, the shaping of academic goals, or that facilitates the impression that the university endorses or is connected to an outside professional activity, interest, or relationship.
Involvement of Students in Outside Professional Activities or Interests
Decisions about whether to involve students in a Faculty Member’s outside professional activities or interest will be guided by determining whether the proposed activities best serve the interests of the student. Faculty cannot require students to become involved in their outside professional activities or interest. Safeguards must be instituted to ensure that the performance of university duties and the research and educational missions of the university are not compromised.
In particular, Faculty must avoid even the appearance of directing students into research activities or outside professional activities that primarily serve their own personal interests at the expense of the students’ educational or scholarly interests, needs, and performance. Hiring students can present a perceived bias or differential treatment and shall be disclosed, reviewed, and managed accordingly.
Faculty Engaged in Clinical Care
In addition to adherence to this policy, Faculty that provide clinical care are expected to adhere to the conflict of interest and conflict of commitment policies at the sites where they practice (e.g., GW Medical Faculty Associates, Children’s National Medical Center, or Veteran Affairs).
Should in the process of disclosure review, it be determined that a conflict warrants management to manage, reduce, or eliminate a conflict, a management plan will be established with consultation of the Faculty Member, and support from the department chair, or unit head for academic units without a department chair, as well as the dean and the provost. The Faculty Member is responsible for compliance with the plan and must notify their department chair or head of academic unit, in writing, of any changes to the circumstances outlined in the plan. Failure to do so would be a material breach of both this policy and the plan, and may result in disciplinary action. The department chair or head of academic unit is responsible for overseeing compliance with the plan.
Committee Disclosure Review and Recommendation
Complex and unique disclosures may be brought to a faculty conflict of interest and commitment review committee for their review and recommendation for resolution. Review and recommendation committees will include representation from schools and colleges as appointed by the dean. Members of the committees are to conduct themselves with the highest ethical standards and objectivity.
Management Dispute Resolution
If disputes about conflict management cannot be administratively resolved, the dispute will be brought to the relevant conflict of interest and commitment review committee. The recommendation of the committee will be provided to the dean and the provost to render the final decision.
Related Policies Specific to Faculty
School of Medicine and Health Sciences Faculty should refer to the supplemental School of Medicine and Health Sciences Policy on Conflicts of Interest Related to Clinical Care
- Addendum B: Investigators
“Investigators” which refers to the project director or Principal Investigator and any other person, regardless of title or position, who is responsible for the design, conduct or reporting of research funded by sponsors, which may include, for example, external or internal consultants or collaborators.
General Requirements for Investigators
Consistent with the requirements of external sponsors, including federal government agencies, this addendum is designed to identify actual, potential, or perceived conflicts of interest or conflicts of commitment related to funded research, and support compliance with applicable rules and regulations, including the Public Health Service (PHS) and National Science Foundation. A number of external organizations have adopted PHS Standards for recipients of funded research. Other sponsors have developed additional policies requiring the disclosure of conflicts of interest.
Sponsor Disclosure Requirements
Sponsoring agencies have established their own disclosure requirements for outside activities, interests and relationships, particularly requirements set forth by federal funding agencies. Measures must be taken to ensure the appropriate use of federal funds and compliance with sponsor requirements. Investigators with funded research must be aware of and follow all sponsor rules and regulations as well as university disclosure requirements outlined in this policy.
Prior to expending funds under any grant or funded research, the university must review all Investigator disclosures of outside activities and interest and determine whether a conflict exists.
Additional Disclosure Requirements for Investigators
In addition to the disclosure obligations set forth for all GW Employees, each Investigator planning to participate in funded research must disclose the Investigator’s outside professional activities and financial interests (and those of the Investigator’s spouse/domestic partner and dependent children) no later than the time of application for the funded research.
Each Investigator receiving funded research must continue to make their disclosure annually during the period of the award and to reflect any information not disclosed initially or to update to any previously-disclosed activities or interests (e.g., the updated value of previously disclosed equity interests). Investigators are also required to report a new financial interest within 30 days of discovering or acquiring the interest.
Other Support, Current & Pending Support, Foreign Components
Investigators are expected to make comprehensive disclosures in sponsor applications and research performance progress reports, in the biosketch, and on an ad-hoc basis if necessary, disclosing and accounting for all forms of research support, whether or not that funding is passed through the university.
Forms of research support include financial support and resources from funding agencies, other institutions, and foreign entities; financial support such as participation in talent programs; foreign start-up packages; foreign appointments; access to in-kind support; foreign components including collaborations with Investigators at a foreign site anticipated to result in co-authorship; use of facilities or instrumentation at a foreign site or receipt of financial support or resources from a foreign entity and; support from U.S.-incorporated affiliates of foreign governments or government-controlled entities.
Investigator Start-up Companies
Start-ups often involve Investigator originated intellectual property, Investigators as the founder or principal position in the start-up, and Investigators playing an influential role in determining the direction of the start-up. Inherent in these relationships and interactions are potential or actual conflicts of interest with respect to competing and/or conflicting interests and obligations. Thus, Investigators must ensure research integrity, avoid conflicts of interest, and protect the university, its Faculty, Staff, and Students when also working with their start-up companies.
Various federal agencies provide funding to small businesses to engage them in federal research and development with the potential for commercialization. Such mechanisms include the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR). While there are standard federal-wide requirements for the SBIR and STTR programs, each agency issues its own implementation guidelines and separate calls for proposals. The Office of the Vice Provost for Research works with Investigators to ensure that the relevant agency’s disclosure requirements are met.
When a start-up company’s activities relate to an Investigator’s institutional responsibilities and the Investigator has a financial interest, even if worth nothing or for which the value is unknown, in the company, full and timely disclosure to the university and sponsors is required. In addition, Investigators may not serve as Principal Investigator on behalf of GW and simultaneously serve as Principal Investigator on behalf of the start-up.
Review and Management of Disclosures Related to Research
The university will review disclosures to determine whether an Investigator’s outside activity or financial interest is related to funded research at the university and, if so, whether it constitutes a conflict of interest. For Investigators undertaking PHS funded research, a review is undertaken in accordance with 42 C.F.R. Part 50.
An Investigator’s outside activity or financial interest is related to funded research when (a) it could be affected by the funded research or (b) when the outside activity is with an entity whose financial interest could be affected by the research.
A conflict of interest exists when an Investigator’s outside activity or financial interest could directly and significantly affect the design, conduct, or reporting of funded research. The bias which may result from such conflicts may impact not only the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, but also the hiring of staff, procurement of materials, subcontracting, clinical referrals, sharing of results, choice of protocol, the use of statistical methods, the use of human participants, or otherwise influence the course of a research project. Disclosures will be reviewed in light of related research activity for the following:
- The nature of the foreign or domestic activities, relationships and financial interests;
- Potential of disclosed financial interests to directly and significantly affect the design, conduct, reporting or funding of research; Risks to the rights and safety of human research subjects; Impact on the integrity of research data;
- Risks to the rights and obligations of students and trainees participating in research;
- Impact on the availability of research results to the scientific community for use in the public interest; and
- Appearance or perception of a conflict of interest or conflict of commitment.
The university will take such actions as are necessary to manage conflicts of interest in funded research, including, prior to the expenditure of award funds, development and implementation of a management plan that specifies the actions that have been or will be taken to manage, reduce or eliminate the conflict. Please refer to the Management section of Addendum A: Faculty for more information.
The Office of the Vice Provost for Research shall have authority and responsibility to articulate and disseminate processes and training for the purpose of enabling compliance with requirements mandated by any sponsors of research, including the federal government, as it relates to the disclosure of outside professional activities, interests, and relationships and management of identified conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment involving any Investigator.
Investigators engaged in funded research are required to complete training regarding their responsibilities under the policy prior to engaging in any funded research project and at least every four years. Investigators must complete such training if they are new to the university, if the university revises policy or procedures in a manner that affects the requirements of Investigators, or if the university finds that the Investigator is not in compliance with the policy or a management plan adopted thereunder.
- Addendum C: Executives
President, vice presidents (including the provost), deans, and others whose compensation is subject to review by the Board of Trustees ("Designated Officials"); and administrators in positions designated under GW Human Resources classification streams E1 through E3, Senior Counsel, and those otherwise designated by the President or Chair of the Board (“Select Administrators”) (collectively “Executives”).
General Expectations for Executives
In addition to the requirements established for all GW Employees, Executives shall obtain approval in advance before undertaking compensated outside professional activities, outside professional activities with fiduciary obligations, and other outside professional activities that may reasonably be perceived as posing a conflict of interest or commitment. Outside professional activities shall not negatively affect the ability of an Executive to fulfill their responsibilities to the university, or impair or appear to impair independence or objective judgment in performing assigned duties. Additionally, outside activities, personal or professional, not covered by this policy should not interfere with the Executive’s time commitment to the university.
Throughout the year, Executives shall report new outside professional activities to their supervisor and the Office of Ethics, Compliance, and Risk. Periodically, Executives shall report previous fiscal year, anticipated, and ongoing outside professional activities through the annual Executive conflict of interest and conflict of commitment disclosure form.
Outside professional activities should be disclosed if they provide compensation, or if they involve ownership or control of, fiduciary obligations to, or other leadership roles in, an outside entity. Any outside professional activities requiring advance approval, as discussed below, should also be disclosed.
For the outside professional activities outlined below, Executives must seek and document advance approval as follows:
- Designated Officials: from the supervising vice president or the president and then from the appropriate committee of the Board of Trustees.
- Select Administrators: from their supervisor and the appropriate vice president in consultation with the Office of Ethics, Compliance, and Risk
The outside professional activities requiring advance approval are those that involve any of the following:
- ownership or control of, or fiduciary obligations to (i.e., founder, CEO, trustee, or director) an outside entity;
- receipt of a single payment in excess of $2,500 per year for outside professional activities;
- receipt of total payments in excess of $10,000 per year, from one or more sources, for outside professional activities;
- time commitment of five or more days per fiscal year that is required for any singular activity (paid or unpaid), or which may pose a conflict of interest. This includes any outside professional activities that may involve a significant time commitment during business hours or other obligations that may affect responsibilities to the university;
- any outside professional activity after collectively exceeding twenty days of outside professional activities in a fiscal year
Review and Management of Disclosures
Disclosures will be reviewed by the Office of Ethics, Compliance, and Risk and the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel and may be shared with other university offices and the Board of Trustees, as appropriate.
 Within this addendum, payment does not include royalties.