This Is Auburn Office of Audit, Compliance & Privacy

Conflict of Interests
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The Division of Institutional Compliance & Privacy has created a comprehensive online disclosure questionnaire to collect relevant information related to conflicts of interest, conflicts of commitment, and related topics in accordance with state and federal regulations, and applicable University policies.

A conflict of interest on the part of a public employee exists when their private interests and their official job responsibilities are competing. A conflict of interest occurs when an employee or immediate family member has a personal interest in or receives a personal financial, economic, professional or personal gain or advantage of any kind from the employee's position in a manner that may influence the employee's judgment, compromise the employee's ability to carry out University responsibilities or impair the University's integrity.
A conflict of commitment is any outside employment or profesional activity, paid or unpaid, by a public employee that could interfere with the performance of the employee's primary institutional responsibilities.
It is for the benefit and protection of the individual employee to disclose and manage any real or perceived conflicts in order to avoid violations of university policies, the Alabama State Ethics law, the Alabama nepotism law, and/or Federal regulations regarding sponsored research. Failure to complete and maintain an accurate disclosure form could lead to discipline up to and including termination. Failure to disclose research conflicts may also jeopardize the investigator's and the University's ability to receive federal grant funding.
No. Completion of the Employee Conflict of Interest Disclosure fulfills the disclosure requirements of the Auburn University Conflict of Interest Policies and federal requirements involving sponsored research, technology commercialization, and related activities. Completion of this questionnaire will not fulfill the Alabama Ethics Commission’s requirement to file an annual Statement of Economic Interests (SEI). Employees who, by State Law, are required to complete the Alabama Ethics Commission's Statement of Economic Interests are notified in February each year via email. Under Alabama law, notified employees who do not complete the SEI as required may be subject fines of up to $1,000 and a misdemeanor charge.
All four divisions of Auburn University (Auburn University, Auburn University at Montgomery, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station) are institutions of public trust. As public employees, University employees must be objective and impartial in acting and making decisions on behalf of the university in order to maintain public confidence in the integrity of our State institution. Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and/or commitment are necessary to identify, manage, and/or eliminate these conflicts.
The University COI/C disclosure questionnaire includes the FCOI for researchers so that investigators only need to complete one disclosure. Completing and certifying the university COI questionnaire satisfies the requirements for disclosure of outside interests by researchers. As before, this will assist in meeting the university's policy and federal regulatory requirement to reduce, manage, or eliminate potential conflicts of interest to protect the university's design, conduct, and reporting of research.
All full-time permanent employees of any of Auburn University's four divisions (Auburn University, Auburn University at Montgomery, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station), including faculty, staff, administrators and executives; researchers and anyone involved in sponsored projects or human subjects research; anyone with signature authority on behalf of the University; and any University personnel authorized to conduct purchasing activities and/or influence/affect the process or outcome of any expenditures must complete the disclosure. This does not include TES employees, Graduate Assistants, or Graduate Teaching Assistants, unless required to do so as part of a federal contract or grant.
You will receive an e-mail notification generated from the COI-SMART system in the Fall semester with a link to the online disclosure questionnaire and instructions to complete it. If you are not sure, ask your supervisor or contact the Division of Institutional Compliance & Privacy.
The online COI/C disclosure must be completed annually between July 15 -– August 31 each year. You are also responsible for updating your disclosures in COI-SMART within 30 days of any material change in the status of any real or perceived conflict, or of any triggering event that might create a new conflict (engaging in new consulting work, starting an outside business, your son/daughter starts working for the university, etc.). Newly hired employees must complete the COI/C disclosure within 30 days of their hire date.
Common triggering events include but are not limited to:
  • getting married/divorced when your spouse is also an AU employee;
  • starting a business or an outside job for which you receive compensation;
  • being elected or appointed to a Board (Board of Directors, Advisory Board, etc.);
  • family member (to 4th degree of consanguinity or affinity) being hired by the Auburn University System (spouse, son/daughter, parent, sibling, grandchildren, grandparents, first cousin, niece/nephew, aunt/uncle);
  • Publishing a book and receiving income or royalties;
  • Outside consulting engagements;
  • Family member or close friend becomes a vendor for the university.
  • Anything of value held or received by you personally or an immediate family member from an outside entity, including but not limited to dividends, paid authorship, ownership interest, stock or stock options, intellectual property rights, royalties or paid travel, that is related to your professional expertise or institutional responsibilities, or when the entity does or plans to do business with the university.
  • Any compensation from outside entities including companies and non-profit organizations, including foreign institutions and foreign governments.
  • Board positions (board of directors, advisory board, etc.) or leadership roles (CEO, owner, investor, partner, etc.) for any companies or organizations, including foreign, that are related to your professional expertise or institutional responsibilities, or when the entity does or plans to do business with the university.
  • Any professional undertaking which has the potential to improperly influence sponsored research or technology commercialization, including but not limited to an equity interest in or remuneration from a non-publicly traded entity, providing outside professional services, or state funded contracts.
  • Stocks, bonds, mutual funds or other investment vehicles as part of an overall investment portfolio or retirement account (401k).
  • Income paid by Auburn University to the employee in addition to his/her salary (e.g. teaching as an adjunct professor or a contract instructor at Auburn University at Montgomery).
  • Intellectual property rights assigned to Auburn University.
  • Reimbursed or sponsored travel reviewed and approved as University business by the appropriate designated department official, or travel sponsored by a domestic (U.S.) governmental entity or another institution of higher education in the United States.
  • Income from seminars, lectures, teaching engagements, advisory committee service, or review panels sponsored by a domestic (U.S.) governmental entity or another institution of higher education in the United States.
No. Your participation in professional organizations related to your Auburn role is beneficial for you and for Auburn. Auburn encourages its employees to engage in professional development activities such as attending conferences, giving presentations, and serving on committees. Similarly, journal publication and editing is considered part of your institutional responsibilities and scholarly activity as a faculty member. Auburn expects its faculty to publish papers and to review journal articles, and your work in this capacity benefits you and Auburn.
No, unless that entity is doing business with your department at Auburn University.
It depends on what interests you have to disclose, if any. It should take only a few minutes to complete and certify. If you are a researcher and/or have several disclosures it may take up to 30-45 minutes.
The information will be reviewed and evaluated by the Division of Institutional Compliance & Privacy together with the appropriate campus research office (AU or AUM). The General Counsel, relevant deans, department chairs, and supervisors, as well as Human Resources, will be consulted as needed. The Conflicts of Interest Committee will have final review and oversight.
You will only be contacted by Institutional Compliance or Research Compliance if a real or potential conflict is identified, or if more information is needed to make a determination. It may take several weeks to be contacted as 6,000 employees submit disclosures. Please note that not being contacted is NOT tacit approval of your interests, activities, or relationships.
Yes and no. This new form includes the questions you may have previously answered as a research investigator, as well as additional questions on non-research financial or other interests. You will only need to complete this one Conflict of Interest Disclosure to fulfill your annual disclosures as a full-time University employee and as a research investigator. You are still required to update your disclosures as needed if there is any change in your financial interests or relationships.
You must disclose any and all of the following affiliations. Many of these are common scholarly activities that do not pose any conflict of interest. However, some affiliations may pose serious national security concerns which is the reason for this inquiry. All foreign interests and activities should be disclosed.
  • Agreements or contracts
  • Research collaborations (including publications)
  • Talent recruitment programs or Friendship Awards
  • Positions, scientific appointments, and/or honors (including dean, guest, honorary, adjunct, or volunteer, with or without support)
  • Laboratories or office space outside the U.S.
  • Equipment, supplies, or employees
  • Gifts provided with terms or conditions
  • Financial support for laboratory personnel
  • Participation of student and visiting researchers supported by other sources of funding
  • Resources made available in support of and/or related to all of your professional R&D efforts
  • Financial interests
  • Intellectual property
  • AU-hosted visiting scholars
  • Travel or site visits paid for by a foreign source
  • Program evaluations paid for by a foreign source
  • Teaching or training engagements
  • Consulting engagements
  • Advising or mentoring engagements
  • Speaking engagements
  • Committees or boards
  • Contracts with or payments to a business owned by you
  • Other professional affiliations
If you were contacted by Institutional Compliance or Research Compliance and worked with their office and your supervisor to draft and sign an official Auburn University Management Plan, then your conflict is managed. If you have a previous departmental management plan, verbal or in writing, you should contact Research Compliance for research related conflicts or the Division of Institutional Compliance for all other conflicts to update and formalize an official management plan.
No. You must log in to the portal with your credentials to complete the disclosure form and certify that the information you provided is complete and accurate.
The university expects its employees to read and comply fully and promptly with the COI Policy, including the requirements for disclosure. University employees who are required to complete the disclosure and fail to comply with the process by not responding or not providing complete and accurate information, or fail to have an appropriate management plan in place may be subject to discipline up to and including termination for violation of University policies. There may be additional consequences pertaining to research for violation of Federal regulations related to NSF, PHS, or other sponsored research.
No, you will have the ability to recertify your answers from the previous year in the COI-SMART system. You will only need to make edits or additions as needed. If the questionnaire is changed or additional questions are added, you may have to re-enter or add information.

There are three ways you may choose from to access COI-Smart:

  1. Navigate directly to COI-SMART at the following URL
  2. Click on the ''Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form'' on the Division of Institutional Compliance & Privacy COI webpage
  3. On the AUAccess ''Employees'' tab you will find an icon link under 'Employee Tools''

You will use single sign-on (your AU username and password) and DUO to login.

Click "My Questionnaires" and click the current ''Employee Conflict of Interest Disclosure'' questionnaire.

Proceed through the questions clicking “Save and Continue,” provide the Certification at the end, and submit the questionnaire.

For inquiries about AU main campus research disclosures, please contact Milly Tye in the OVPRED at (334) 844-8601. For all other inquiries, please contact Kristin Roberts in the Division of Institutional Compliance & Privacy at (334) 844-4398. Please see our Conflict of Interest/Commitment guidelines for common examples of conflict situations and how they may be managed on the COI webpage. If you are not sure whether you have a conflict, it is best to disclose the circumstances and the reviewers determine that a conflict does not exist, rather than to find out later that a conflict does exist and it was not disclosed or managed properly.
Please send any concerns to the Division of Institutional Compliance & Privacy via email or call (334) 844-4389. You can also report any concerns anonymously via EthicsPoint or call 1-866-294-4871.

Last Updated: March 03, 2022