Conflict of interest examples

Illustrative examples of conflicts of interest

  • An academic holds a position (for example as a consultant, director or advisor) in an enterprise that may also have an interest in influencing government or other policy
  • An academic who has a senior editorial position with a commercial journal is also on a University library committee that recommends journal subscriptions
  • A researcher has a financial interest in the licensee (or proposed licensee) of University intellectual property
  • A researcher holds a position (for example as a director) in an enterprise that may wish to restrict or otherwise manage adverse research findings for commercial reasons
  • A member of staff chairs a University committee which is to consider the allocation of funds to be shared between a number of colleges, including their own

Conflict of interest principles

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Category Principles
Spinout formation

All academics involved in the formation of a new spinout should complete a conflict of interest management plan, which is to be reviewed by Research Services and approved by the Head of Department before the initial investment can go through.

Guidance for departments on spinouts is also available:

Intellectual property If a researcher has a financial interest in the licensee (or proposed licensee) of University intellectual property they should disclose this, and step back from the negotiations, which should be managed by the IP Rights Management Team and Oxford University Innovation.
Applying for grants and negotiating contracts Staff and students should declare all conflicts when applying for grants, negotiating contracts etc. In particular, financial conflicts need to be declared to avoid doubts being cast over the validity of research, and subsequent potential reputational damage.
Publishing Authors submitting a manuscript should disclose any ‘significant financial interest’ or other relationship with the manufacturers of any commercial products or providers of commercial services discussed in the manuscript and any financial supporters of the research. The intent of such disclosures is not to prevent an author with a significant financial or other relationship from publishing a paper, but rather to provide readers with information upon which to make their own judgements.



Category Principles
External appointments (starting a new business, consultancy or advisory work, directorships etc)

Head of department approval should be granted for outside work and the holding of outside appointments, as set out in the regulations and the associated policy. 

Outside appointments guidance for academic staff and academic-related staff

External appointments (use of University resources)

Members of staff should not make use of University resources when undertaking consultancy work or work for external organisations, unless express permission has been granted by the department.

Staff members’ primary commitment is to the University, and therefore a maximum of 30 days per academic year can be spent on external appointments. These appointments should be managed so that they do not compete with duties to the University (time, teaching schedule, use of resources etc).



Category Principles
Admission, supervision, academic progress

Staff with a close personal or familial relationship with a student or a student’s family should not be involved in decisions about that student’s admission, supervision or academic progress, or the award of any studentships, prizes or other grants to the student.

If a member of a panel making decisions about awarding studentships is the supervisor of an applicant, both the supervisor and the student should declare an interest.



Category Principles



Contract negotiation

Staff involved in admissions, recruitment or contract negotiation should neither deal with, nor make decisions about, applicants or other parties in negotiations that are known to them.

For example, a member of staff would not participate in the appointment, hiring, promotion, supervision or evaluation of a person with whom they have a close personal relationship.

An academic or a non-academic member of staff who is on the board of governors of a school would not be involved in considering a student from that school for an undergraduate place.

Procurement If a member of staff has a conflict of interest (arising from a personal relationship or an outside appointment) relating to the procurement of goods and services, they cannot be involved in the purchasing decision.
Committee work

Committee members should declare any conflicts either at the start of the meeting, or at the start of the item in question. It is then the responsibility of the chair to decide how to proceed. The declaration should be noted in the committee minutes.

Committee membership should not give rise to conflicts of interest, and committee members should not take part in a decision in which they have a conflict of interest. For example, no committee member should play a role in approving a project that they are sponsoring.