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Research and Innovation

Conflict of Interest Reporting Process Upgraded

An ambitious initiative to roll out an integrated suite of research administration tools continues this fall with a new module for reporting conflicts of interest.

View through a glass door into a laboratory.

The ongoing effort to streamline and simplify research administration has taken another big step with the launch of a new online module for reporting conflicts of interest. You might say it’s one small step for individual employees, one giant leap for NC State’s Office of Research and Innovation.

That’s because the conflicts you need to report haven’t changed, but the benefits of tying together a handful of previously separate systems will affect virtually every aspect of research.

“The whole research administration system will have a common look and feel,” says Richard Best, director of compliance in the Office of Sponsored Programs and Regulatory Compliance. “Plus, the data will be integrated across modules — something we haven’t been able to do before.”

So, whether you’re reporting a potential conflict, developing a grant proposal, reporting research results or seeking approval for the participation of research subjects, you’ll be using a new integrated system — eventually. The new system, called Research Enterprise Data (or RED, for short), is rolling out in phases through 2022.

NC State is partnering on the project with industry leader InfoEd Global. Colleges and universities have been using InfoEd Global’s integrated suite of software products for over two decades.

Reporting and Managing Conflicts

The conflict of interest module will have a large user base. University policy requires all faculty members, all EHRA employees and all SHRA employees paid with sponsored research funds to complete an annual conflict of interest form. Conflicts — such as having a significant financial interest in a business that sells products to the university — have to be reported and mitigated.

Employees will also be able to use the online module to file a notice of intent to engage in professional activities for pay. This notice is required for activities such as consulting or working in a management position for an outside company.

“NC State is a very entrepreneurial university,” Best says. “We strongly advocate for the creation of intellectual property and spinoff companies. But it’s important to ensure that those activities and relationships are appropriately disclosed and to manage the impact of those conflicts.”

In the past, employees were required to submit their conflict of interest forms in August. If you first reported a conflict in May, you still had to fill out the form again in August. Moving forward under the new system, you’ll have a full year from the date you first report the conflict before you have to update the form again. (You’ll only need to update the form sooner if you have another conflict to report during the year.)

To help faculty and staff navigate the new online system, ORI has set up a training portal with extensive training documents and videos. Best encourages users to take advantage of these offerings.

“I would emphasize that the system is different, and because it is different, it would definitely be helpful for folks to review the training modules and the other online resources that are available within the RED system website before they get into it and start trying to figure it out,” he says. “That will definitely help them in the end.”