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Conduct and Compliance Procedure – Conflict of Interest (including Conflict of Interest in Research)
The purpose of this procedure is to clarify the responsibilities of staff members with respect to conflicts of interest. The term ‘conflict of interest’ refers to a situation where a conflict arises for an individual between two competing interests. These are often, but not exclusively, interests of public duty versus private interests. This procedure will help to ensure that if an actual or reasonably perceived conflict exists between a staff member's interests and their University duties and responsibilities, the conflict of interest will be managed in an appropriate manner.
This procedure applies to all University staff.
Close personal relationship: A relationship between a staff member and a relative, a financially dependent person, a close friend, a de facto partner or any person with whom there is currently, or has been, an intimate relationship. This does not include a working relationship which exists due to ordinary collegiate academic collaboration, where the colleagues are not relatives, financially dependent, or de facto or intimate partners.
Conflict of commitment: This occurs when one interest of a staff member, which may, or may not be a private interest or non-University interest may harm or interfere with the productivity or involvement of that staff member in aspects of their University responsibilities. It may concern the staff member’s distribution of efforts between employment obligations to the University and to outside activities. Conflicts of commitment can occur in research where the staff member’s non-University activities harm or interfere with the staff member's research obligations.
Conflict of interest: The term ‘conflict of interest’ refers to a situation where a conflict arises for an individual between two competing interests. These are often, but not exclusively, interests of public duty versus private interests. This refers to a reasonably perceived, potential or actual conflict of interest. Conflicts of interest can involve financial or non-financial interests of the staff member and the interests of a business partner or associate, family member, friend or person in, or has had a close personal relationship with the staff member. Refer to examples of conflict of interest and guidelines for action for further information.
Conflict of Interest Advisory Officer (CIAO): For the purpose of this procedure, the Executive Director, Monash HR (Registrar, Sunway Campus Malaysia) acts as a CIAO for all instances of general conflicts of interest and the Vice-Provost (Research) (Deputy President (Strategy), Sunway Campus Malaysia) acts as the CIAO for conflicts of interest in research. The CIAO’s provide advice and assistance in the resolution of potential conflicts of interest that are unable to be resolved between the relevant parties.
Conflicts of interest in research: This includes an actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest which may compromise, or have the appearance of compromising, a staff member's ethical behaviour and professional judgment in the conduct and reporting of that research. It is critical that such conflicts are appropriately managed as they can compromise the validity and integrity of the research process and undermine public confidence in the institution.
Dean or Executive Director: The Dean (or in the case of Sunway Campus Malaysia, Head of School) or Divisional Director (or in the case of Sunway Campus Malaysia, the Deputy President or Registrar as relevant to the portfolio) or, where applicable, a person acting as his or her nominee.
Financial interest: Any employment, business activity or other right, claim, title or legal share in something that has a monetary, or equivalent value. Examples of financial interest include, but are not limited to, shares, share options, dividends, and the right to receive remuneration or other benefits such as salaries, director’s fees, consulting fees, allowances and discounts.
Head of Unit or Director: The Academic Head of Unit (department or school, or in the case of Sunway Campus Malaysia, Head of Discipline) or Director (head of administrative unit) or, where applicable, a person acting as his or her nominee.
Non-financial interest: Any community or other voluntary activity or involvement including with a sporting club, church, political party or other formal or informal association or group.
University: The term University includes Monash controlled entities.
1. Avoidance of conflicts of interest
Staff members must avoid being placed in a situation where they are taking action, making a decision or have the ability to influence any action or decision of the University that involves a conflict of interest, or the reasonable perception of a conflict of interest. Likewise staff members must avoid conflicts of commitment that impair their ability to fulfill their duties at the University. For example, this might arise where a staff member:
As soon as a staff member becomes aware that he or she has a conflict of interest or a potential conflict of interest in the process of negotiating or making a decision on a transaction or other action in his or her professional capacity, he or she must immediately declare it and, unless resolved, take no further part in any negotiation or decision on the subject.
The University administers annual declaration processes for particular issues that may give rise to actual or perceived conflicts of interest. These processes include the annual Declaration of Private Interests and the annual Declaration Regarding Student Admissions.
The Declaration Regarding Student Admissions must be completed by the following staff in approximately June or July each year:
If a person declares that someone with whom the person has a close personal relationship is or may be seeking admission to the University during the forthcoming academic year, s/he will be required to disclose this potential conflict of interest in accordance with section 2 below. The matter will then be managed in accordance with section 3 of this procedure.
2. Disclosure of conflicts of interest
The primary obligation is to disclose the potential conflict of interest in advance. Failing to disclose a potential conflict of interest appropriately could be regarded as misconduct.
If a staff member believes or suspects that a conflict of interest exists or potentially exists, the following steps must be taken.
If a Dean or Divisional Director has a conflict of interest he or she must seek advice from the officer to whom they report.
A member of the Vice-Provost's Group, a Dean, a Divisional Director or a Conflict of Interest Advisory Officer (CIAO) may refer a conflict of interest matter to the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President for consideration and resolution.
The Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President may also request that a conflict of interest be brought to him or her for further consideration and resolution.
If the President, Academic Board has a conflict of interest, he or she will seek advice from the Chancellor in managing the conflict.
3. Management of conflicts of interest
Once a conflict of interest is identified and the individual concerned has completed and submitted the Disclosure of Conflict of Interest Form, the Head of Unit or Director and staff member must devise an appropriate plan to resolve or manage the conflict of interest.
A management plan states matters including:
In developing this plan any party to the conflict of interest may consult with the relevant CIAO for guidance and assistance.
Once a management plan is devised it must be:
All documents should be marked “confidential” and access strictly limited to those employees who need access for official purposes.
4. Management of potential conflicts of interest
Requests for consideration of a potential or actual conflict should:
The CIAO may attempt to resolve the conflict or refer it to the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President.
Where the conflict of interest matter is referred to the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President, s/he should report to the CIAO, within fourteen days of a written request being received, or such further time as agreed with the CIAO.
The Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President should:
5. Conflicts of interest in research
Researchers have additional responsibilities under the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (the Code).
The Code recommends that researchers:
Researchers should also be aware of and comply with any separate requirements for disclosure of conflicts of interest, from funding bodies such as the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (or in the case of MSA the National Research Foundation (NRF).
Researchers who are considering applying for a National Institute of Health (NIH) or grant or Public Health Institute (PHS) funding must comply with the separate requirements as outlined in the Guidelines for NIH/PHS financial conflict of interest compliance.
Biomedical and, in particular, clinical research are inherently sensitive areas of research. Given the potential impact on human lives, the University's position is that as a general rule, researchers should not receive any direct benefit and must disclose any indirect benefit from the outcome of clinical trials.
Commercialisation of research is increasingly important to the University and it is recognised that substantial benefits can arise from collaborations and relationships with industry in the licensing and marketing of research discoveries and in the creation of spin-off companies. These activities may also be a source of potential conflicts of interest which need to be appropriately managed.
6. Failure to comply with conflict of interest procedure
Failure to comply with this procedure or the directions of the Head of Unit, Director or the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President may result in disciplinary action in accordance with the provisions of the relevant enterprise agreement and contract of employment, including possible dismissal in cases of serious conflict of interest or other serious misconduct.
Failure of researchers to comply with this procedure may also result in loss of funding for the University.
Individual staff members
Individual staff members including adjunct/honorary appointees of the University and staff of Monash controlled entities are responsible for:
Heads of Unit and Directors
Heads of Unit and Directors are responsible for:
Deans and Executive Directors
Deans and Executive Directors are responsible for:
Conflict of Interest Advisory Officers (CIAO)
Conflict of Interest Advisory Officers (CIAO) are responsible for:
Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President
Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President is responsible for: