Inside Rensselaer
Volume 7, No. 5, March 15, 2013

Curtis Powel

Curtis Powell

A Word From Human Resources

Conflict of Interest and Commitment

Today’s revised governmental protocols and the public consciousness have brought the issues associated with conflict of interest and commitment to the forefront at many nonprofit institutions. Conflict of interest occurs when the private interest of an employee interferes with his or her loyalty the organization, either in practice or appearance.

At Rensselaer, employees are required to self-report potential conflicts of interest or commitments, and also disclose any issues related to their institutional responsibilities.

To ensure that Rensselaer faculty and staff are familiar with all regulatory requirements, the Rensselaer Board of Trustees approved an Institutewide policy to address conflicts of interest and commitments that may arise in the course of work that is being performed by our employees and in their financial relationships with others.

The policy is intended to ensure there is no ethical bias. In addition, it was established as a way to protect the professional integrity of Rensselaer employees, provide the necessary assistance to address conflicts of interest and commitments, and protect the reputation of Rensselaer as a top-tier technological research university.

Often, educational institutions and business organizations in the U.S. have seen themselves covered by mainstream media as a result of actions associated with one’s failure to comply with conflict of interest protocols. For example, the Los Angeles Times recently reported that the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine spent $700,000 for an outside review that raised serious objections to the organization’s structure, which the review said was likely to lead to financial conflicts of interest.

At Rensselaer, with over $100 million at risk from sponsored research funding to the Institute, we are confident that Rensselaer employees will use good judgment to protect themselves and the Institute. Overall, the management of addressing potential conflicts of interest and commitments of our faculty and staff is vital. Since we are aware that circumstances can and will change over time, we survey our faculty and staff on an annual basis.

Recently, Rensselaer partnered with the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI), which provides a set of training programs focused on research teams in higher education. The program’s goal is to develop and distribute high quality, peer reviewed educational resources designed to raise awareness for the “Responsible Conduct of Research” for members of research teams. The Division of Human Resources has implemented two Conflict of Interest online courses developed by CITI. All Rensselaer faculty, researchers, and staff members involved in sponsored research are required to complete the two modules.

To access the courses, visit Upon completion of the exams, individuals will receive a certificate of completion.

If you have any questions regarding the Rensselaer conflict of interest and commitment policy, please contact the Division of Human Resources at (518) 276-6302.

Curtis Powell, SPHR
Vice President for Human Resources

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 7, Number 5, March 15, 2013
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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