Regulations

The National Science Foundation (NSF) requires disclosure of significant financial interests by investigators receiving support for research either directly or via subaward. NSF conflict of interest policies are found in the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide, Chapter IX - Grantee Standards.

Applicants to NSF must disclose project-related financial interests for themselves and all other project investigators at the proposal submission stage. This requirement also applies to subawards, to other federal non-PHS agencies, and to other agencies that have adopted the NSF requirements (e.g., UCOP Research Programs: CBCRP, CHRP, TRDRP; the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine).

What does this mean?

Per these regulations, principal investigators, and all other investigators responsible for the “design, conduct or reporting” of the research project are required to disclose all significant financial interests that would reasonably appear to be affected by the research or educational activities funded or proposed for funding by NSF, or in entities whose financial interests would reasonably appear to be affected by such activities. Investigators must also disclose the financial interests of their spouses/registered domestic partners and/or dependent children.

What types of research does this apply to?

These regulations apply to any research and any activity for which research funding is available from NSF, other federal non-PHS agencies, or other agencies that have adopted the NSF requirements via grant or cooperative agreement, including Phase II SBIR or STTR awards (but excluding Phase I SBIR/STTR).


Who/What/When

Who files?

All Principal Investigators, Project Directors, Co-Principal Investigators, and any other members of the research team (e.g., postdocs) who will be responsible for the design, conduct, or reporting of research or educational activities funded or proposed for funding. Under the regulation, these individuals are defined as “Investigator.”

When are disclosures filed?

An NSF and Other Non-PHS Federal Financial Disclosure is required at the time a proposal is submitted to the Sponsored Projects Office and whenever there is a change in the financial interests of a responsible individual.

What must be disclosed?

All investigators must disclose any “Significant Financial Interest” (SFI) and/or “Related Financial Interest” (RFI) of themselves, spouse, registered domestic partner, and dependent child(ren) where that financial interest may be: 1) affected by the research being conducted or, 2) in any organization that would reasonably appear to be affected by or benefit from the research being conducted.

What is a “Significant Financial Interest”?

Significant Financial Interest is defined as anything of monetary value including, but not limited to:

  • Salary, income, honoraria, royalties, dividends, consulting, loans, or other payment or consideration with value (including payments made to the University of California Health Sciences Compensation Plans and e.g., equipment loans) from any business, public, or nonprofit entity exceeding $10,000 during the prior twelve months, aggregated for the Investigator, spouse, dependent child(ren), and registered domestic partner. Equity interest (stock, stock options, real estate, etc.) that exceeds $10,000 or 5% ownership.
  • Equity interest (stock, stock options, real estate) that exceeds $10,000 or 5% ownership.
  • Management position such as board member, director, officer, partner, or trustee held by the Investigator.
  • Intellectual property interest held by the Investigator, spouse, dependent child(ren), or registered domestic partner assigned or to be assigned to a party other than the Regents.

Note: Income from seminars, lectures, teaching engagements, or service on advisory committees or review panels (e.g., NIH Peer Review) for public or private nonprofit entities is not disclosable. Payments made to the Investigator by the Regents are not disclosable.

What is excluded from disclosure/What is not a “Significant Financial Interest”?

  • Salary, royalties or other remuneration from the proposing organization;
  • Any ownership interests in the organization, if the organization is an applicant under the Small Business Innovation Research Program or Small Business Technology Transfer Program;
  • Income from seminars, lectures, or teaching engagements sponsored by public or non-profit entities;
  • Income from service on advisory committees or review panels for public or nonprofit entities;
  • An equity interest that, when aggregated for the investigator and the investigator’s spouse and dependent children, meets both of the following tests: does not exceed $10,000 in value as determined through reference to public prices or other reasonable measures of fair market value, and does not represent more than a 5% ownership interest in any single entity; or
  • Salary, royalties or other payments that, when aggregated for the investigator and the investigator’s spouse and dependent children, are not expected to exceed $10,000 during the prior twelve-month period.

What is a “Related Financial Interest”?

Related Financial Interest is defined as work performed under a sponsored project, which results would appear to affect the Investigator’s SFI; the following are considered RFIs:

  • Results of project being carried out by Investigator, which would be relevant to development, manufacturing, or improvement of product or service of entity in which Investigator has a SFI.
  • Investigator financial interest in an entity, which might manufacture or commercialize drug, device, procedure, or any other product used in the project or that will predictably result from the project.
  • Investigator consulting income from a single entity that exceeded $10,000 during the prior twelve months; and the financial interests of that entity, or the Investigator’s financial interest related to consulting for that entity, would reasonably appear to be affected by the research to be conducted.
  • Entity where financial interests lie is proposed as a subcontractor, consortium member, supplier of goods, lessor, or otherwise involved with the sponsored project.

What is the process for disclosing at UC Berkeley?

For the disclosure process at award and proposal stage and during the life of the award, see NSF and Other Non-PHS Federal Financial Disclosure.

What happens after the disclosure is submitted?

If the screening questions were all “no,” then nothing more is required unless there is a change. This is referred to as a “negative” disclosure.

If an investigator provides any “yes” responses to the screening questions, then additional information is required. This is referred to as a “positive” disclosure. This disclosure will then be reviewed by the COI Coordinator and if necessary by the COI Committee. A financial interest does not necessarily mean a conflict of interest.

See Review and Management for more information on positive disclosures and the review process.


Resources