Conflict of Interest Review of Directors of Joint Research Centers

UC Berkeley Notice

Date: April 14, 2006

PAUL GRAY, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
JAN DE VRIES, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
CAROL MIMURA, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Intellectual Property and Industry Research Alliances
PROFESSOR RICHARD MATTHIES, Chair, Conflict of Interest Committee
DEAN RICHARD NEWTON, College of Engineering
DEAN ANNALEE SAXENIAN, School of Information

From: BETH BURNSIDE, Vice Chancellor for Research

Re: Conflict of Interest Review of Directors of Joint Research Centers

The Berkeley Campus has recently established a number of UCB-Industry partnerships under agreements that allow continual joint research to occur, often called Open Collaborative Research agreements. These research centers and labs provide a powerful collaborative approach for both identifying and solving key problems in targeted areas by fostering collaborative interactions between UCB and industry researchers. While the various intellectual property issues that arise in such collaborations are addressed in the negotiated collaborative research agreements, it has become apparent that the continual collaborative research model also raises some unique and important new issues concerning financial conflicts of interest for the faculty participating in these research partnerships.

It has become clear to us that it is just as essential for the campus to conduct careful and thorough evaluation of potential financial conflicts of interest arising in Centers or Labs operated under collaborative research agreements as it is for the other identified situations that now conventionally trigger conflict of interest review. Such a review provides critical protection for the collaborative research partner, for the University, for the faculty involved, and for their students. Because these collaborative research centers or labs are highly visible to the public, and because they involve active, contractual partnerships between the University and the Industry partner, the potential for conflicted situations is complex and significant. Thus we have concluded that potential conflicts of interest for faculty participants in collaborative research partnerships should require the same careful review by the campus Conflict of Interest Committee that we now conduct for other identified situations where potential conflicts of interest arise, and similarly require that appropriate management strategies be put in place where manageable conflicts are identified.

The appearance of a financial conflict of interest is particularly significant for University faculty in these collaborative research Centers who direct research as paid employees of the Industrial Partner while on leave from the University, while also maintaining their laboratories and/or supervising graduate research activities on campus. Under current policy, unless the faculty member is the Principal Investigator or otherwise required to disclose a financial interest because of project funding on a sponsored project funded by the Industry partner, there is no requirement to disclose their financial relationship with the Industry partner for Conflict of Interest review. Such a review is important to ensure that financial interests do not affect research activities and/or the mentoring of graduate students.

To address these concerns, it will henceforth be campus policy that all University faculty who direct open collaborative research centers entailing management agreements with the University must complete a financial disclosure for review and approval by the Conflict of Interest Committee as a condition of acceptance of the collaborative research agreement by the campus. In the event that faculty Directors of these centers turn over, the new faculty Director must also complete a financial disclosure for review and approval by the Conflict of Interest Committee as a condition of appointment to Director status.

Existing procedures already insure that financial conflicts that may arise as a result of specific research projects performed by UCB faculty in a collaborative research center or lab will be disclosed and evaluated as a standard part of the preparation and review of the associated research project description document, often called RPD documents.

Beth Burnside
Vice Chancellor for Research
119 California Hall #1500
Berkeley, CA 94720-1500
tel: (510) 642-7540
fax: (510) 643-5620

Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology
Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
335 LSA - MC#3200
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-3200
tel: (510) 642-3200
fax: (510) 643-6791