Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

MSU is subject to multiple conflict of interest policies and regulations. The procedures regarding how we disclose and manage potential conflicts of interest pursuant to these various policies and regulations are dependent on multiple factors such as the agreement type, the nature of the individual relationships, sponsor type, etc. Below we have developed COI FAQs which are organized to cover three COI topics:

  1. General (what, who, how to disclose)
  2. Board of Trustees approval process
  3. Kuali COI Disclosures


General Information

  • 1. What is a conflict of interest?
    A conflict of interest occurs when an individual’s personal, professional, commercial, or other interests or activities outside of the University affect, appear to affect, or have the potential to affect their professional judgment or obligation to the University.
  • 2. What financial interest must I disclose?

    Generally, MSU faculty and academic staff must disclose any significant financial interest in, relationship with, and/or managerial control over an external entity.  In some instances, primarily related to federal awards, MSU faculty and academic staff must also disclose the financial interest of their spouse and dependent children.  

    Financial interests may include receipt of payments, ownership, equity, gifts, etc.  These interests must be reported for each entity or organization in which they are held or which provides the financial interest (e.g., a company, trust, non-profit organization, non-U.S. University, etc.). See “What Do I Need to Disclose
  • 3. What does "entity" mean?
    “Entity” refers to a separate legal entity, which can be an individual, corporation or other organization.  In this context, we are referring to entities that are separate and distinct from MSU. For more specific help, see “What to Disclose” and what constitutes a significant financial interest (SFI). When you disclose an SFI, you must also provide information about the entity type and explain how the significant financial interest in the entity relates to your MSU responsibilities.
  • 4. Who reviews reported Financial Interests?

    The Office of Conflict Disclosures and Management (OCDM) reviews financial interests faculty and academic staff disclose through the MSU Research Administration COI.

  • 5. What is the process for reviewing a financial interest to determine whether a conflict of interest exists and reporting and management are required?
    See, OCDM process chart at
  • 6. Does a faculty member need to report a significant financial interest involving a University-funded project or a non-funded project?

    Yes, if the faculty member has a financial interest or an opportunity for tangible personal benefit related to the project.  For example, a conflict of interest exists if a faculty member has a significant financial interest in a company that will be materially affected by the outcome of a University-funded research project that faculty member is conducting.  When the faculty member reports that interest, the university can help them manage the conflict in a way that won’t adversely affect the research.

  • 7. I have reported a significant financial interest that is related to an MSU project that I am working on. Do I need to disclose this interest to those who work on the project (including students)?

    Yes, you must disclose your personal interest in the entity to students, fellows, trainees, and other research workers you supervise in an institutional activity when their efforts relate to the project in which you have an interest.  Additionally, on an annual basis please inform and assure students, fellows, trainees, and other research workers that they may address concerns privately with the Chair (or other individual responsible for graduate programs) if any concerns arise due to your relationship with the entity.

  • 8. Do I need to report income from consulting or other work approved under MSU’s Outside Work for Pay Policy?

    Yes, if your (your spouse, your child’s) income from the work totals more than $5,000 in a calendar year from a single entity.

  • 9. Is an Outside Work for Pay Policy form or a Travel Authorization form a substitute for completing a Conflict of Interest disclosure?
    No. You must still complete a COI disclosure.
  • 10. Do I need to disclose an honorarium I received as part of my travel?
    Yes, if the honorarium value is equal to or higher than $5,000 (aggregated over the calendar year, from a single payer).  The honorarium would be separately disclosed as a payment and not as part of the travel reimbursement.
  • 11. When do I need to make a disclosure?

    Annually: All faculty and staff who work on sponsored research must complete an annual disclosure no later than one year after your initial disclosure or last annual disclosure, and every twelve months thereafter.

    Project based: Some federal regulations and policies require that each institution and investigator applying for, receiving, or being supported by those agency’s funds be compliant with rules regarding training and disclosure prior to applying for funds and the establishment of conflict of interest management plans prior to the expenditure of funds.  See FAQs below relating to federal COI requirements.

    Revising Disclosures: Disclosures must be updated within 30 days of acquiring or discovering any new significant financial interest.

  • 12. What MSU Unit is responsible for gathering information related to financial interest?
    The Office of Conflict Disclosures and Management is responsible for developing policies and procedures related to identifying managing conflicts of interests.  The Office of Research Regulatory Support has overall responsibility of ensuring compliance with federal regulations governing conflicts of interest.
  • 13. I don’t want everyone to know my finances. Will this information be kept private?

    MSU respects the confidentiality of private financial information and other information reported by faculty and will not release this information publicly unless:

    It is legally required to disclose the information.

    The resolution or management of the conflict of interest requires public disclosure of the information.

    The faculty member consents to its public disclosure.

    Some federal regulations require MSU to inform the public on our website that information regarding conflicts related to agency funding is available to the public. When requested, MSU must provide the information within five working days.

  • 14. To whom does the COI Policy apply?

    The Policy applies to individuals appointed through the academic personnel system with research, teaching, outreach, or service responsibilities at MSU.  The Policy also applies to individuals who have independent responsibility for proposing, conducting, or reporting the results of MSU research and other sponsored projects. Faculty and research leaders will need to determine which individuals in their group meet these definitions. An annual disclosure must be completed within 12 months of your initial/previous disclosure, regardless of whether you are applying for grants.

    Examples of those who are required to disclose include:

    • Fixed term and tenure track professors
    • Postdoctoral fellows
    • Research associates
    • MSU extension positions (e.g., program directors, specialists, etc.)

    This does not include (unless they are working on a PHS, NSF, or DOE project):

    • Professors emeritus
    • Lecturers
    • Undergraduate Students

    While the institutional policy will apply to everyone, some federal agencies and private funding organizations have specific rules and regulations which must also be applied.

  • 15. Do different colleges at MSU have different rules?

    Each college (or relevant non-college unit) is encouraged to prepare, in consultation with the OCDM, a supplement to the conflict of interest policy, with frequently asked questions, that address conflict of interest issues specific to the disciplines and activities of the that college or unit. A college may also adopt its own addendum to the Policy to address specific conflict situations which occur in that college. Confer with your chairperson or dean to determine if additional standards have been implemented in your college.

  • 16. Are graduate and post-doctoral fellows required to disclose interests?

    While the policy is addressed to faculty and academic staff, it does apply to other individuals, including graduate students or post-doctoral fellows “who have independent responsibility for proposing, conducting, or reporting the results of MSU research and other sponsored projects.” This responsibility would be determined by the Project Director or Principal Investigator, who would identify the student as Key Personnel within the Proposal Development document.  In that case, the student would be required to disclose any related significant financial interest and resolve any conflict of interest. Students should be able to log into the Kuali COI portal using their MSU NetID the same as MSU employees.  Contact OSP/CGA or for assistance.

  • 17. What happens if my financial interest is a conflict of interest?

    The OCDM will notify you and your chair of the potential conflict.  They will work with you and your chair to develop a management plan.  The OCDM, in consultation the Conflict Review Committee (CRC), makes a recommendation of appropriate action (usually the development of a conflict management plan) to the Vice President for Research and Innovation (VPRI).  The VPRI ultimately determines whether a conflict can be managed without requiring the individual to divest themselves of the interest in the outside entity.

    OCDM will work with colleges and other non-college units to incorporate terms they require in Conflict Management Plans before the plan is presented to the CRC for review or VPRI for approval.

  • 18. What is a Conflict Management Plan (CMP)?

    It is an agreement that identifies restrictions on and expectations of the investigator for the purpose of reducing or managing a conflict of interest.  The purpose of the CMP is to ensure that the design, conduct, and reporting of research will be free from bias or apparent bias. Management plans may include the following requirements (non-exhaustive list):

    Public disclosure of the COI when presenting or publishing research; to staff members working on the project; to MSU’s Institutional Review Board, etc.;

    Disclosure to human subjects participating in research;

    Appointment of an independent monitor empowered to take measures to protect the design, conduct, and reporting of the research against bias;

    Modification of the research plan;

    Change of personnel responsibilities or disqualification of personnel from participation in all or a portion of the research; 

    The researcher and their chair will have the opportunity to review and comment on the CMP before it goes to the CRC for assessment and final approval by the Vice President for Research and Innovation. Conflict Management Plans are periodically reviewed for compliance and updating as appropriate by OCDM and staff.
  • 19. What happens if I fail to file a disclosure required under the Policy?

    Without a required disclosure, project or grant applications will not be submitted to the funding entity.  MSU will not release funding until the disclosed conflict has been managed.

    Additionally, a faculty member who violates this Policy is subject to disciplinary action. The VPRI, in consultation with OCDM, shall establish a mechanism for investigating concerns or allegations regarding unreported significant financial interests and other opportunities for tangible personal benefit.

    Some federal funding agencies have additional rules and regulations regarding non-compliance with their policies and regulations.

  • 20. What happens if I make a mistake and forget to disclose something?
    If you made a mistake, return to the Kuali Research portal and update your disclosure.  After updating, you must re-certify your disclosure.  If you have further questions, contact OCDM.
  • 21. Can MSU faculty or staff represent the company in which they have an interest in subaward/contract negotiations with MSU?

    It depends.  Contact OCDM prior to engaging in such activity. 

    MSU is committed to full disclosure and appropriate management of conflicting interests in all activities, including sponsored projects. Multiple laws, regulations, and policies govern conflicts of interest.
  • 22. What do I need to do if I want a student to work on a project related to a company in which I have an interest?

    You must obtain written permission from the Dean and Graduate School and the Chair’s endorsement to serve as the dissertation or thesis chairperson of any graduate committee for a student who is employed concurrently by the Small Business, funded by the Small Business or appointed or employed by MSU to carry out routine technical services for the Small Business.

  • 23. Can students work for a company in which their MSU advisor has a financial interest?
    A student may work for a company in which their MSU advisor has a financial interest if the Faculty Member obtains written permission by their Dean based on justification by Faculty Member and endorsement by his/her Chair.
  • 24. Can I be the PI for an entity outside of MSU?

    Yes, if you reduce your employment at MSU accordingly (or have an employment agreement between MSU and the entity for the appropriate effort). Additionally, you would not be able to serve as MSU subaward PI if you are also the PI for the outside entity.

Board of Trustees Approval

MSU submits certain contracts involving faculty financial interests for approval to the MSU Board of Trustees.  MSU employees must disclose ownership interests in or managerial control over outside legal entities. When conflicts of interest arise, MSU obtains Board of Trustees review and approval before moving forward with the arrangement.

  • 1. What must I disclose?

    MSU employees must disclose;

    • An ownership interest of over 1% in any private company (Sole Proprietor, Partnership, LLC, PLC, etc.)
    • An ownership interest in any publicly traded, for-profit corporation if the stock value exceeds $25,000.00
    • Holding a Director or Officer position (i.e., President, Vice President) of any corporation (for-profit and non-profit)
    • Any Trust in which the MSU employee is a beneficiary or trustee
  • 2. What scenarios does the Board of Trustees review?

    The BOT reviews agreements that are proposed between MSU and a company in which an MSU employee has a controlling interest or serves as an officer or a board member; and

    Situations in which an MSU employee has an ownership interest over $25,000 in a publicly traded company, and the MSU employee seeks to participate in company-sponsored activity on behalf of MSU.
  • 3. How do I obtain Board of Trustees’ approval?

    Submit the Term Sheet Form  to the Office of Conflict Disclosures and Management ( and the Office of General Counsel (Lynn Kriser; by the dates noted in FAQ 25, below, in order to be added to the Board Agenda for approval at the corresponding BOT meeting date.  Note: if you have not previously disclosed this financial interest to OCDM and it requires a management plan, submission to the Board may be delayed until the Plan review and approval process is complete.

    Process for De Minimis Value Agreements (MTAs, CDAs, etc.): If a contract is worth less than $250, the employee must submit an affidavit to the Board using the De Minimis Affidavit Form. MSUT will compile the list of de minimis disclosures prior to each meeting and maintain a record of such disclosures for Board or public review.  This process is instead of full Board review and approval. 
    Process for Agreements Directly Between Employee and MSU: If the contract is between MSU and an employee directly (rather than a company in which the employee has an interest) and the value of the contract is above $5,000, there are two steps for approval.  First, the MSU employee and the subject matter of the contract are identified and made public at a public Board meeting (First Read).  Second, at a subsequent public Board meeting, the Board will review the terms of the specific contract under review (Use term sheet noted above) (Second Read). First Read is only required on the initial disclosure of the MSU employee’s interest.  Subsequent contracts with the same employee only require a Second Read.


  • 4. What are the 2023 Board of Trustees COI deadlines?

    Term sheets are due two weeks before OCDM must provide materials to the President’s Office.  If a financial interest identified in a term sheet has not been previously disclosed to OCDM, it might not be reviewed and managed in time for the Board meeting that corresponds to the Term Sheet due date.  In those instances, the transaction will be pushed to the following regularly scheduled meeting.


    Term Sheet due to OCDM and General Counsel’s Office Board of Trustees Meeting Date
    December 28, 2022 February 10, 2023
    March 6, 2023 April 21, 2023
    May 1, 2023 June 16, 2023
    July 24, 2023 September 8, 2023
    September 13, 2023 October 27, 2023
    October 30, 2023 December 15, 2023

Kuali COI Disclosures

  • 1. What does the Project Based Disclosure Status in Kuali Research mean?

    This is how OCDM categorizes the results of their reviews.  Unless the status says “Disclosed Interests Unmanageable,” the Project may go forward. Be sure to verify that a CMP has been prepared and approved if it says “Disclosed Interests Managed.”  Below is an explanation of each descriptor:

    Approval Status What it Means
    Disclosed Interests Unmanageable This project may not go forward unless determination is overruled by MSU Vice President for Research and Innovation. 
    Disclosed Interests Managed Researcher has a Conflict of Interest related to the Project or their MSU duties; however, a Conflict Management Plan (CMP) has been put in place.  The project may go forward so long as the researcher complies with the terms of the CMP.  Ok to move forward with next step of review and approval process.
    Relationship Identified Researcher has a relationship with an outside entity that could become a conflict, but it is not yet a conflict.  Ok to move forward with next step of review and approval process.
    Potential Relationship Researcher has a potential relationship with an outside entity that could become a conflict, but it is not yet a conflict.  Often, this will be selected if the value of the financial relationship is below $5000. Ok to move forward with next step of review and approval process.
    Not Related Researcher has relationship with an outside entity that is presently unrelated to their MSU expertise or work, but has the potential of becoming related to their MSU position or expertise. Ok to move forward with next step of review and approval process.
    Reviewed contact FCOI Report reviewed, but further action is needed.  May not go forward.
    No Conflict Exists Researcher has no outside relationships that are or could be related to their MSU expertise or work. Ok to move forward with next step of review and approval process.


  • 2. How do I submit my disclosures in Kuali?
    See the Kuali Disclosure Job Aid on the How to Disclose tab of this webpage.