Conflict of Interest - Research

Responsible officeResearch
Enforcement officialVice President for Research
ClassificationBoard of Trustees-delegated Policy
Category17. Research and Intellectual Property

Statement of policy

The increasing involvement of academic researchers and educators with industry and private enterprise makes it easier for promising research observations to be translated into practical application in many different sectors. WMU encourages employees to patent and license inventions arising from their research, develop partnerships with industry to market new technology, apply for industry sponsored research funds, and serve as consultants for industry. Involvement in commercial activities comes with many benefits, including practical application of new technology, royalty income for the employee and the University, the potential of external research funds, etc. The Federal government also encourages universities to commercialize the results of federally-supported research for the public good (see the Bayh-Dole Act).

Involvement with commercial ventures, however, could potentially divert university employees from their primary missions of education, research and service. Conflicts of interest and commitment can arise when the interests of the commercial venture differ from the interests and primary obligations of the University and its employees, or when the commercial enterprise consumes an undue share of employee time.

Policy and forms

The policy provided herein pertains specifically to the requirements established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) regarding the disclosure of significant financial conflicts of interest - those between investigators and industry partners. WMU also has established conflict of interest policies relevant to other types of relationships relevant to University operations. Refer to the Employee Handbook and other documents such as the various bargaining unit agreements for policies relevant to nepotism and other related conflict of interest topics.

Conflict of Commitment: Full-time faculty are expected to devote their primary professional time to teaching, research and administrative responsibilities. Outside financial interests and activities should not interfere with these commitments.

Conflict of Interest: An actual or potential conflict of interest exists when the vice president for research reasonably determines that a Significant Financial Interest could affect the design, conduct, or reporting of the research or educational activities funded by a governmental agency.

The University is responsible for maintaining objectivity in research by ensuring that the design, conduct, and reporting of research will not be biased by any conflicting financial interest of investigators responsible for the research. The rationale for establishing policies to manage significant financial conflicts of interest in research is to protect employees and the University from potential accusations of misconduct.

Avoiding conflicts of interest at WMU 

If you have questions about whether you have a significant financial or other type of conflict of interest, please contact the Associate Vice President for Research.

If you have questions about conflicts of interest related to the protection of human subjects, please contact the research compliance coordinator at


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