As a land-grant institution, Penn State is committed to creating and disseminating knowledge to stakeholders in Pennsylvania, the United States, and the world. The support of education, research, outreach, and the general operation of the University involves interests and commitments that can lead to real or perceived conflicts. Real or perceived conflicts of interest or commitment can occur naturally and are not necessarily problems in and of themselves, however, if the conflicts are not disclosed and managed properly they can damage the credibility of the University as well as that of individuals and can compromise integrity and objectivity.
A conflict of interest arises when an individual who is in a position to influence a decision on University policies, research, purchases, programs, or other functions could benefit financially or personally, either directly or indirectly from that action, or where a family member or other closely-related individual might so benefit. A conflict of interest includes those situations in which financial or personal benefits compromise or have the appearance of compromising professional judgment. A conflict of commitment arises when an individual’s involvement in outside activities has the potential to interfere with her or his primary commitments to the University.
As conflicts arise, it is essential for affected individuals to manage them following established policies and procedures and seeking guidance and assistance when necessary. Thus, Penn State has identified the key principles listed below to guide the conduct of senior executive officers, faculty, staff, administrators, and other members of its community in such situations.
- Individuals must ensure the integrity of their actions on behalf of the University by taking steps to avoid conflicts of interest and commitment, or even the appearance of such conflicts.
- Interests and potential conflicts should be identified and either eliminated or managed before an actual conflict occurs.
- The potential for ethical conflicts should be monitored so that guidance from appropriate campus experts can be sought before an actual conflict occurs.
- Local, state and Federal laws, nongovernmental (e.g. accrediting organizations) regulations, and University policies, procedures, and guidelines must be followed.
- Members of the Penn State community are expected to make good-faith efforts to act responsibly toward all participating parties when involved in the resolution of real or perceived conflicts. This means that they should:
- Respect the rights of others by treating them with integrity, honesty, and impartiality
- Work out the resolutions of conflicts with civility
- Protect the confidentiality of individuals and various types of University information
- Protect University resources and property
Examples of situations that may lead to conflicts of interest and/or commitment
This list is illustrative and not intended to be exhaustive. If you are uncertain whether you may have a conflict, please contact your direct report for guidance.
- Consulting activities, outside employment, or other external activities that interfere with the performance of assigned University duties.
- Purchasing of goods or services for the University from businesses in which the employee, or his or her family, has a financial interest, or as a result of such purchase, may directly benefit.
- Receiving gifts, gratuities, loans, or special favors (including trips or speaker's fees) from research sponsors or vendors.
- Holding significant financial or business interest in an entity with which the University interacts on a basis for academic, research, or business purposes.
- Serving as a member on a board of directors, committees, or advisory groups (or similar bodies) of a governmental, for-profit or not-for-profit entity.
- Using information or property received as a University employee for personal purposes.
- Hiring of relatives where one employee is in a position to supervise or to influence the related employee’s compensation, promotion, or granting of tenure.
- Teaching a course at another institution when that course is similar to one available at Penn State and could otherwise be taken by Penn State students.
- Involving undergraduate or graduate students in the entrepreneurial activities by their faculty advisors.
- Using an experimental drug in research that is manufactured by a company in which the researcher owns stock.