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Research Ethics

Iowa State University is dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge while upholding high standards of integrity.

Researchers affiliated with the College of Veterinary Medicine are expected to follow the professional policies and procedures as described in the ISU Faculty Handbook.

Intellectual Property Protection and Administration

The ISU Research Foundation (ISURF) and the Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer (OIPTT) manage ISU inventions and technologies. ISURF manages legal ownership and protection of Iowa State's intellectual property, university's copyrights and trademarks. OIPTT works with the academic departments to identify inventions and commercializes technology in cooperation with ISURF. For additional details contact Dr. Kenneth Kirkland.

Conflict of Interest

Disclosure of non-university activities is accomplished through the use of two forms:

Annual Report of Non-University Activities: This form must be submitted annually by each faculty and staff member, regardless of whether or not the individual has participated in any non-university income-producing activities. The form will be kept on file in the departmental office.

Disclosure of Intent to Engage in Non-University Activity: Any faculty or staff member who plans to enter into a new income-producing relationship with a non-university entity should review this form. The ISU policy has this to say about the timing of the disclosure: "Disclosures should be made as early as possible to enable those reviewing them to consider what action, if any, needs to be taken regarding any potential conflicts of interest. At the latest, a disclosure statement should accompany the submission of a contract or grant proposal when it is submitted to a departmental executive officer for his or her approval." This form should also be submitted if a potential for conflict of interest or commitment exists even if no contract or grant proposal will be submitted through the university.

The DEO should review it in conjunction with the annual report already on file and in light of the faculty or staff member's university responsibilities. This form will also be kept in the departmental office.

Conflict of Interest Policy Implementation (Implementation of Special Cases Section)

The Iowa State University policy on Conflicts of Interest provides for some special cases in which the university engages in activities with university-employee-owned companies. When the relationship is one of the company acting as a product vendor and the university as the customer buying the company's product, the special Regents' policy applies (see Faculty Handbook policy on Conflict of Interest Vendors, Section, page 135). The relationship is managed under the Iowa State University Conflicts of Interest policy (see Faculty Handbook).

To manage the special cases identified under the Conflict of Interest policy, a disclosure meeting is held with the relevant employee(s) and those with administrative responsibility related to those employees. The immediate supervisor asks for a "meeting for the purpose of an employee making a disclosure of potential conflict of interest related to the employee's company." In consultation with the Vice Provost for Research, the list of invited attendees is determined.

At this meeting it is determined whether the potential conflict involves case 1, 2, or 3 as outlined in the policy and responsibilities are determined for management as outlined in the policy. During the meeting the following items are reviewed:

  1. The company, the relationship of the employee(s) to the company, and the business of the company are all described by the employee(s).
  2. The anticipated relationship of the company to the university, as regards the research arena, is described and discussed so that it can be fully understood.
  3. A decision is made as to whether or not an oversight committee is required and, if so, who is responsible for setting it up and receiving reports from it. Relevant intellectual property policies are discussed.
  4. There is a discussion of the employee's time commitment to the company. Normal consulting arrangements can be made by the employee for consulting with the employee-related-company as allowed by the supervisor. Vacation time may be used for company business, if timing is agreed to by the supervisor. Leave without pay may be requested and is recommended for extended periods of work with the company.
  5. Any potential relationship of graduate students to the company is discussed. The greatest concern is for situations where the graduate advisor may also be the supervisor of the advisee working in the advisor's company. This is not allowed under normal circumstances. Appropriate arrangements are made to safeguard the graduate experience and the integrity of the thesis or dissertation for any graduate student working in an employee-related-company, when that employee is the advisor.
  6. There is discussion of the use of Iowa State University equipment and/or facilities by the company and if such is anticipated, the process for establishing fees, and/or rental rates involving the vice President for business and finance is reviewed for all. Similarly, a procedure for recording time on equipment and for billing the company is established.
  7. All present are reminded of the Regents' policy on conflict of interest vendors. If the company wants to be such a vendor, it must seek approval through the Iowa State University Purchasing Department and the request must be approved by the Board of Regents before the university can purchase from the company.
  8. An opportunity is provided for anyone present to clarify any matters and/or raise any other concerns related to this potential conflict of interest situation.
  9. When all concerns have been alleviated, all present indicate their support for the particular research relationship that was the subject of the meeting.
  10. A memo detailing the decision of the meeting becomes the permanent disclosure record regarding the relationship and is sent to all participants in the meeting.