The involvement of academic scientists in outside professional activities can have important potential benefits, including:
speeding effective translation of scientific discoveries to benefit patients;
increasing the exchange of knowledge across the biomedical ecosystem; and
broadening the scientific knowledge and perspective of academic scientists.
It is essential, however, that such involvement be compatible with various duties owed by these individuals to their academic institutions.
Conflicts of interest may arise when an individual receives personal compensation, such as consulting fees or shares in a company (equity), in return for working with a for-profit company while they are actively overseeing a scientific program or engaged in research in their academic institution.
These arrangements can be particularly complicated when the outside professional activities directly overlap with work in one’s own academic group, as it creates a potential conflict of interest for the academic scientist.
Conflicts of commitment may arise when one’s commitment to outside professional activities adversely affects his or her capacity to meet his or her responsibilities at the Broad Institute.
Proactively identifying, reviewing, and addressing such conflicts is essential to promoting a culture of transparency and integrity, facilitating objectivity, and maintaining public trust in research.
The Broad Institute has a Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment Policy in compliance with the federal regulations on promoting objectivity in research. It is the policy of the Broad that conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment must be identified and managed appropriately.
In addition, we abide by certain principles to protect against conflicts of interest. These include:
Broad scientists* have a duty to the scientific community and the general public.
They should be transparent about their involvement in companies and organizations (called “conflicted entities”) that might profit from their related scientific work.
Broad scientists* have a duty to their institutions.
They should disclose outside involvement to the Broad and to their other affiliated institutions, to ensure that the conflicts may be identified and managed.
They should respect non-public information generated by their own laboratory (including their own work at Broad) by not sharing it with conflicted entities, except as provided for under formal agreements (such as written research collaboration agreements).
They should respect non-public information that they may receive from others at their institutions, by not sharing it with conflicted entities.
They should manage their time commitment to outside activities such that they (i) don’t interfere with their obligations to the Broad and (ii) are consistent with Broad’s policies and practices.
They should use institutional resources (including those from outside sponsors) to benefit the non-profit mission of the institution, and not to directly or exclusively benefit a conflicted entity.
Broad scientists* have a duty to act in the best interest of their trainees.
They should direct, guide and mentor their trainees in a manner that serves the best interests of the trainee and the laboratory. (For example, they should not influence trainees to work on—or not to work on—particular topics of interest to the conflicted entity.)
They should transparently disclose their outside involvements related to their academic research to their trainees.
Broad scientists* have a duty to respect the interests of their colleagues, including their trainees, and their academic community.
They should transparently and regularly disclose their outside involvement to their trainees and colleagues, such as during scientific talks.
They should respect non-public information that they may receive from colleagues, by not sharing it with conflicted entities.
Even when no actual conflict exists, it is important to recognize and manage potential perceived conflicts of interest. Failure to do so can undermine the integrity and objectivity of the research, creating personal and institutional vulnerability.
* The term “Broad scientists”, as used above, includes faculty and staff employed by or affiliated with the Broad Institute — as well as administrative personnel employed by the Broad Institute, to the extent that they work on science-related projects.