Although having a financial or other interest in a private company is often considered a disclosable financial interest, there are very few situations that have the potential to be harmful to the research enterprise to constitute a financial conflict of interest.
Potential Risks that May Arise Due to a Conflict of Interest
Compromise of Scientific Integrity
Conflict may result in unintentional bias in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data leading to claims beneficial to the researcher and/or entity in which the investigator has a financial or management interest. In its most extreme form, conflict may lead to fabrication or falsification of data, or to plagiarism.
Misuse of University Facilities
Conflict may lead to improper use of university facilities, e.g. laboratories and equipment, to further the personal or proprietary interests of the investigators and/or entity in which the investigator has a financial or management interest.
Improper Direction of Student's or University Employee's Work
Conflict may result in requests to students or university employees to engage in work that is more clearly in the interests of a sponsor, or the entity in which the PI has a financial interest, than the University. Graduate students, for example, might be asked to do work that is more in the interest of financial gain, (of the PI, the sponsor or themselves), than to their own academic preparation.
Unbalanced Allocation of Faculty Member's Time and Effort
A conflict of commitment may lead to an improper distribution of time and effort resources away from the fundamental purposes of the University and toward the private financial interests of the faculty member and sponsoring agency.
Failure to Recognize the University's Right to Intellectual Property and Related Financial Interests
A conflict of interest may result in action or inaction that fails to recognize the University's right to intellectual property and related financial interests.
Improper Channeling of Research Funds
A conflict may lead to decisions to misrepresent the category of financial award, (e.g., as a gift rather than a grant or contract), to the University.
Inappropriate Delay or Restriction on Publications
A conflict may lead to decisions to inappropriately delay or restrict publication of findings.
Appearance of Impropriety
A conflict of interest may result in the appearance of impropriety which itself must be considered as a risk.