Rice University

Conflict of Interest

Common Terms



  • Conflict of Commitment - a situation in which a Scholar‘s Outside Activities (e.g., consulting, public service, or pro-bono efforts) may interfere or appear to interfere with the quality and performance of his or her Institutional Responsibilities.
  • Conflict of Interest - a situation in which a Scholar may be influenced by considerations of personal gain due to an existing or potential Outside Interest or Activity. Such relationships may affect or might reasonably appear to affect his or her ability to make objective independent judgment in the pursuit of research results, scholarship, or creative work.
  • Copyright - a copyright is a legal protection for an original piece of work, such as art, film, software, or writing; the fee is the per use return to the owner for the use of the copyrighted work. For example, an author may receive a fee each time a copy of their book is sold. At Rice, the University holds any patents that come about as a result of sponsored research, but the individual faculty member often hold the copyright(s). Sponsored research agreements may specify other, or additional, provisions. Questions about copyright may be addressed to either the Office of Technology Transfer [OTT] or the Office for Sponsored Research [OSR].
  • Corporation - an organization formed with state governmental approval to act as an artificial person to carry on business (or other activities), which can use or be used, and (unless it is non-profit) can issue shares of stock to raise funds with which to start a business or increase its capital. There are also non-profit (or not for profit) corporations organized for religious, educational, charitable, or public service purposes.
  • Dividends/capital gains - distribution of a portion of a company's earnings, decided by the board of directors, to a class of its shareholders.
  • Equity Interest - a proportion of ownership, typically via investment in a business. Stocks are also known as equities.
  • Faculty Conflict Committee (FCC) - a committee composed of nine Faculty Members and staff, and chaired by the Vice Provost for Research (or his or her designee). The FCC will be responsible for: (a) affirming or disputing identifications of COIs; and (b) recommending whether COIs can be managed or must be eliminated.
  • Faculty Fellow - individuals holding research positions that are not tenure-eligible, under University Policy No. 327.
  • Faculty Member - includes all faculty members with tenure and tenure-track appointments, as well as benefits-eligible non-tenured or non-tenure track faculty members with the rank of Lecturer or above, under University Policy No. 201.
  • Fair Market Value - in an open market, fair market value is what a buyer would be willing to pay for a good or service and what a seller would accept. Fair market value considers both the price negotiation and the value of the service or product itself.
  • Family Members - the Scholar’s spouse, domestic partner or dependents with financial interests related to the Scholar’s institutional responsibilities. However, since the integrity of the research and scholarship of Scholars is vital to the mission of the University, Scholars should also be sensitive to situations where other family members such as a parent, sibling or non-dependent children may have a significant financial interest reasonably related to the Scholar’s institutional responsibilities (such as a significant investment in a start-up company that has licensed the Scholar’s intellectual property). In such cases, to avoid the appearance of a financial conflict of interest, it may be prudent for the Scholar to disclose such additional interests of which he or she is aware.
  • Gift - any transfer of an item of value (including a trip, personal belongings, or special concessions in connection with personal business) for less than fair market value, including a personal discount. Business dinners or other business outings are not considered “gifts,” unless the business component is not significant or the social component does not comport with the overall professional standard of avoiding actual and apparent conflicts of interest.
  • Honoraria - a one-time payment from another University or non-for-profit entity made to a faculty member for a volunteer non-employment service such as a presentation or speech on an area of expertise. The intent of an honorarium is to show appreciation for a service rather that to provide compensation.
  • Institutional Endowment - a permanent fund bestowed upon the University with a designated specific purpose.
  • Institutional Responsibilities - the professional responsibilities of a Scholar on behalf of the University. Institutional Responsibilities include, for example, activities such as teaching, preparing coursework, counseling students, service on departmental and University-wide committees, research, publishing scholarly work, and other work relevant to his or her academic field of endeavor, professional practice, and consultation.
  • Intangible Property - Trademarks, copyrights, patents, loan notes, and lease agreements.
  • Intellectual Property - legally protected works of the mind (such as technology, software, or scholarly, or artistic works) including inventions, plants, mask works, copyrightable works, trademarks, and trade secrets. Intellectual property includes commercializable biomaterials such as transgenic animals or cells and viruses.
  • Investigator - for purposes of Rice University Policy 216, any university employee who is a Principal Investigator or co-investigator on a research project. This broader term includes all Rice professors of the practice, certain research faculty, and any individual to whom Principal Investigator or co-principal investigator status has been provided. It may also include other individuals, including significant contributors, collaborators, consultants and others regardless of position, title or compensation from an award, who are independently responsible for the development, design, conduct, or reporting of a sponsored research project
  • Licensing Fees - the legal mechanism by which one party can obtain the right to use someone else’s patent or copyright, usually by paying licensing fees. At Rice, these fees are primarily returned to the inventor, the University, the school, and the Office of Technology Transfer and the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, with the University keeping the smallest portion, according to the University’s royalty sharing policy.
  • LLC - Limited Liability Company (LLC).
  • Outside Activities - include leadership participation in professional, community, or charitable activities; any self-employment, any participation in business partnerships, or any employment or consulting arrangements with entities other than Rice. Outside Activities may be either compensated or uncompensated. In general, any service on any board: for-profit, non-profit, advisory, honorary, or otherwise, will constitute an Outside Activity.
  • Outside Entity - any corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, or any other organized legal entity other than Rice University.
  • Ownership Interest - the interests referenced Rice University Policy 216 under the subsection titled “Outside Interests and Activities That Must Be Disclosed.”
  • Partnership - the relationship existing between two or more persons who join in order to carry on a trade or business. Each person contributes money, property, labor, or skill and expects to share in the profits and losses of the business.
  • PHS Investigator - an Investigator who is currently or has in the past three years received funding from a PHS (Public Health Service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) awarding agency. PHS encompasses nine agencies, which include AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), HRSA (Health Resources and Quality Policy and Research), the NIH (National Institutes of Health and SAMSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services). An Investigator is defined as, for purposes of Rice University Policy 216, any university employee who is a Principal Investigator or co-investigator on a research project. This broader term includes all Rice professors of the practice, certain research faculty, and any individual to whom Principal Investigator or co-principal investigator status has been provided. It may also include other individuals, including significant contributors, collaborators, consultants and others regardless of position, title or compensation from an award, who are independently responsible for the development, design, conduct, or reporting of a sponsored research project.
  • Principal Investigator - the individual officially responsible for the conduct of any sponsored project, or the individual officially responsible for the conduct of any funded project. On research projects, the PI is usually a faculty member; on other types of awards, the PI may have an administrative appointment. The PI is always an Investigator.
  • Product Development - activities and efforts associated with the research and development of products to be sold in the market place; includes efforts designed to advance a technology towards a commercially available product.  Such efforts may include clinical trials and other regulatory approval steps as well as the development of prototypes.
  • Remuneration - any form of compensation from an outside entity including, but not limited to, ownership of stocks, bonds, stock options, warrants, partnership interests, rights to patent or royalty payments, receipt of consulting fees, speaking fees, lectureship fees, or payment for serving on boards of directors, scientific and other advisory boards. For the purposes of this disclosure, report any applicable reimbursed travel expenses in the Sponsored Travel form.
  • Research - a systematic investigation, study, or experiment designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. The term encompasses basic and applied research, as well as product development (e.g., a diagnostic test, a new kind of electrical circuit or drug). It also includes any activity that has sponsored funding, in whole or in part, such as a research grant, career development award, center grant, individual fellowship award, infrastructure award, institutional training grant, program project, research resources award, or other contractual mechanism.
  • Rice Start-up Company - relatively newly formed, privately-held, for-profit company based on intellectual property developed at Rice.
  • Royalties - any and all consideration received for the grant of a license, including, but not limited to, "running royalties," i.e., those royalties paid based on the sale of licensed products, and any fixed fees paid under the license such as up-front fees, milestone payments, minimum annual royalties, etc.
  • Scholar - Encompasses the following: Investigator, Faculty Member, and Faculty Fellow. Investigator - for purposes of Rice University Policy 216, any university employee who is a Principal Investigator or co-investigator on a research project. This broader term includes all Rice professors of the practice, certain research faculty, and any individual to whom Principal Investigator or co-principal investigator status has been provided. It may also include other individuals, including significant contributors, collaborators, consultants and others regardless of position, title or compensation from an award, who are independently responsible for the development, design, conduct, or reporting of a sponsored research project. Faculty Member - includes all faculty members with tenure and tenure-track appointments, as well as benefits-eligible non-tenured or non-tenure track faculty members with the rank of Lecturer or above, under University Policy No. 201. Faculty Fellow - individuals holding research positions that are not tenure-eligible, under University Policy No. 327.
  • Significant Financial Interest - a financial interest having a significant monetary value (whether that value can be easily determined or not) that belongs to the Scholar or the Scholar’s Family Members, and that reasonably appears to be related to the Scholar’s Institutional Responsibilities, as discussed in subsection of Policy 216 titled “Outside Interests and Activities That Must Be Disclosed.”
  • Stock/Stock Ownership/Stock Option - the shares of a particular company or corporation; the certification of ownership of such stock.
  • STTR/SBIR3 - Small Business Innovation Research and/Small Business Technology Transfer. SBIR and STTR under the auspices of the Small Business Administration are government programs that encourage innovation by mandating that the large sponsoring agencies fund cooperative R&D projects involving small businesses and research institutions. Note that according to the NIH, disclosure does not pertain to Phase I awards but does apply to Phase II awards (see http://grants.nih.gov/grants/policy/coi/coi_faqs.htm#J).
  • Trademarks - a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.