The University of Missouri System has joined a short list of American colleges and universities that are ensuring that their conflict of interest policies cover not only the actions of individuals but entire institutions.
University of Missouri System President Gary Forsee issued an executive order to the chancellors of the university's four campuses in Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla that expands the university's conflict of interest policy to ensure that research involving human subjects is not compromised by the university's financial interests.
"For more than 20 years, the University of Missouri has had policies that covered individual conflicts of interest for employees, those involved in research and those serving on our governing board," Forsee said. "Today we're broadening our policies to address concerns or conflicts that might arise when the institution's financial interests could give the appearance of influencing our scientific research or other work.
"This new policy underscores our continued commitment to the integrity and transparency of our research programs, as well as the safety of research subjects," Forsee added.
The new policy, Institutional Conflicts of Interest in Human Subjects Research, identifies potential areas of institutional conflict, such as gifts or grants the university may receive from a company whose product is the subject of university research, as well as procedures on how to manage the conflict. The expanded policy calls for periodic review of the university's financial interests and investments and compares this information to ongoing research involving human subjects.
A 12-member intercampus task force was formed to develop this initial policy. The task force reviewed institutional conflict of interest policies from a short list of other research institutions. In the coming weeks, a second universitywide task force will be formed to consider institutional conflicts of interest that go beyond just those involving human subjects research.
"We take great pride in our growing research programs and the positive impact they can have on improving our economy in Missouri," Forsee said. "This important work requires our proactive attention and vigilance to ensure there are no conflicts of interest that could compromise the integrity of the results or the safety of our research subjects."
The executive order will become part of the university's Collected Rules and Regulations, Section 410.020. It also will address requirements of the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs, a national voluntary accreditation body for institutional review boards that sets standards for institutions performing human subjects research.