These guidelines serve to help faculty members and researchers to navigate the issues that may arise when they involve graduate students, postdoctoral trainees, and research staff members (collectively, “Research Personnel”) in situations that may be affected by a conflict of interest at UTD.
- Research Personnel have the right to perform research at UTD free from the interference or bias of conflict of interest in pursuit of a graduate degree and as a contributor to projects funded by federal agencies and industry.
- Their involvement in research at UTD that relates to a conflict of interest can be beneficial, but their educational experience should not be diminished or diverted in any way.
- They have a right to respectful mentorship. Conflict of interest concerns should not impair a faculty member’s responsibilities in serving as their faculty mentor.
- They have the right to refuse to perform tasks that divert their time and effort from completing adequate progress on their academic degree or professional development.
- They have the right to refuse to perform tasks that could be viewed as being done for the sole benefit of the Entity, or tasks which are in contravention to standard ethical scientific practice.
- They have the right to information about the source(s) of funds that support their graduate research and any research in which their faculty supervisor asks them to participate.
- They have the right to information about the extent and purpose of their involvement in collaborations between their faculty supervisor and the company in which the faculty member has a financial interest.
- They have the right to co-authorship in publications involving significant contribution of ideas or data from their research at UTD.
- They have the right to information about intellectual property and licensing activities that involve the results of their research.
- They have the right to know of any employees of the company in which the faculty member has a financial interest who will have access to UTD research facilities in which they are working.
- They have the right to clearly defined grievance procedures and informal compliant procedures at the department and campus-wide levels.
Supervisory Disclosure of Conflict of Interest
- Investigators will disclose their relationship with the Entity to Research Personnel, including graduate students, postdoctoral trainees, and research staff members, supervised by the Investigator in the performance of Responsibilities at risk for the appearance of conflict of interest or commitment.
- Investigators will disclose their relationship with the Entity to Research Personnel prior to involving individual in the performance of Responsibilities at risk for the appearance of conflict of interest or commitment. Investigators will update this disclosure at least annually.
- Responsibilities for mentoring or supervising Research Personnel include service on a thesis or dissertation committee, service as a committee chair, collaboration on an invention disclosure to OTC, and oversight in the design, conduct, or reporting of research.
- Investigators will disclose their relationship with the Entity to the OGE and to the thesis or dissertation committee members if the graduate student’s thesis or dissertation research was funded by the Entity, or if the thesis or dissertation research studied or used intellectual property owned by or exclusively licensed to the Entity.
- Investigators will disclose their relationship to OGE and to the committee members when the committee is formally appointed, and before voting on oral examinations.
Student and Trainee Participation in Conflicts of Interest
- Investigators will not solicit Research Personnel to perform work at UTD or using UTD resources for the sole benefit of the Entity. This guideline excludes work covered under an agreement executed between the Entity and UTD.
- Investigators will not solicit Research Personnel to transfer UTD data, intellectual property, or equipment to the Entity outside of agreements executed between UTD and the Entity.
- Investigators will not solicit Research Personnel under their supervision to perform work for the Company outside of UTD.
- Graduate students who hold research assistant positions at UTD are not permitted to conduct paid or unpaid work on behalf of the Entity during the term of their assistantship.
- Investigators will avoid the appearance of directing students into research activities that serve their own personal interests at the expense of the student’s academic and research interests.
- UTD employees who are under an Investigator’s supervision and desire to work on behalf of the Entity must either (1) transition to the Entity full-time, or (2) be placed under the supervision of a UTD faculty member who does not have a relationship with the Entity. Such employees will disclose their request to work on behalf of the Entity to RIO before the Research Personnel begin any work or activities on behalf of the Entity.
- Investigators will intend to involve Research Personnel in Responsibilities at risk for the appearance of conflict of interest and commitment will request the appointment of a Research Personnel Monitor. This faculty member will monitor the academic and research experience of the Research Personnel for the appearance of conflict of interest and commitment.
- Research Personnel must meet with an appropriate Research Personnel Monitor, independent of the Investigator, at least once a year to provide an independent review of the participation of the Research Personnel in the Responsibilities at risk for the appearance of conflict of interest or commitment.
- The Research Personnel Monitor will review the academic progress made and research performed by the student to ensure they meet the standards of the student’s academic program and that the student’s work is not unduly influenced by Investigator’s conflict of interest or commitment. Any concerns reported by the Research Personnel Reviewer with the student’s participation in the Responsibilities will be reviewed by Investigator’s Review Panel.
- The Research Personnel Reviewer will review the trainee or staff member’s participation in the Responsibilities to ensure the individual’s research and other responsibilities are not unduly influenced by Investigator’s conflict of interest or commitment. Any concerns reported by the Research Personnel Reviewer with the student’s participation in the Responsibilities will be reviewed by Investigator’s Review Panel.
- Graduate students are permitted to conduct paid or unpaid work on behalf of the Entity with prior approval from the Conflict of Interest Official, the student’s faculty co-advisor, and the Associate Dean for Research. Graduate students must submit the Conflict of Interest Review for Graduate Researchers to RIO to obtain prior approval. Such work will be permitted if the graduate student: (1) has a faculty supervisor or co-advisor unaffiliated with the Entity; (2) will not be supervised by the Investigator or another UTD employee at the Entity; (3) performs work at the Entity that does not use or develop UTD intellectual property, nor overlap with the student’s dissertation research at UTD; and (4) satisfies all UTD employment requirements, including receiving Curricular Practical Training approval where applicable.
- Graduate students can receive a founder’s equity interest in a new Entity if: (1) the student does not work on behalf of the Entity until after they graduate; (2) the student discloses their equity interest in the Entity to their thesis or dissertation committee; and (3) the Investigator discloses his relationship with the Entity to OGE and to the other faculty members of the thesis or dissertation committee before receiving the equity interest.
- Investigators will abstain from voting on oral examinations for graduate students who worked for the Entity outside of UTD, who founded an Entity in which I hold a financial interest, or other situations where the appearance for conflict of interest and commitment is unmanageable.
- Investigators will closely supervise collaborations between their Research Personnel and employees of the Entity. Investigators will not encourage such collaborations that appear to serve the Investigator’s personal interests at the expense of the mentor-mentee relationship. Such collaborations create an unmanageable appearance for conflict of interest when they jeopardize a student’s ability to publish their dissertation research or explore commercial opportunities for that research.
Contact the COI Office to request a copy of the Conflict of Interest Review for Graduate Researchers form.
Graduate researchers, postdoctoral researchers, and other research staff supervised by a Conflicted Investigator must complete the Responsible Conduct of Research training program hosted by the Office of Research and Innovation at least once every four years. The Office of Research Integrity and Outreach will host a seminar focused on conflict of interest concerns for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.
Research Integrity and Outreach: Conor Wakeman, Conflict of Interest Manager
Technology Commercialization: Brent Schultze, Director
Graduate Studies: Elizabeth Rugg, Associate Dean for Research and Professional Development