Subject: Re: Conflict of Interest, Conflict of Commitment
To: "Peter B Gilkey"
From: "Alexander B. Murphy"
Date: Fri, 16 Jan 2009 10:07:22 -0800

Dear Peter,

Thanks for your message and the invitation to contribute to the discussion of the COI-C policy. I am on sabbatical leave in London and am thus not in a position to attend meetings, but I am attaching a draft of my thoughts on an alternative approach to the COI-C issue that I believe stays clear of many of the problems of the original draft. (I shared an earlier version of this draft with Russ Tomlin before leaving for England.) In my opinion, the original draft runs into particular problems because (1) it confuses conflict of commitment issues with balance of commitment issues, (2) it relies on the "one-in-seven" rule, which no one understands (including administrators -- I've heard three different, inconsistent explanations of the rule), and which is under any circumstances improperly invasive of weekends (if someone works 50 hours between Mon and Fri., no one should have any say over what they do during weekends), (3) it fails to distinguish between things that should be quantified and those that should not, and (4) it starts from the presumption that there are widespread problems with balance of commitment instead of having a process of scrutiny kick in only when such problems emerge. I'd like to think my alternative approach addresses these problems, while preserving the legitimate right of the university to intervene when there is a clear conflict of interest/commitment and giving administrators some authority when there is a balance of commitment problem.

I hope these comments will be of help to you. Feel free to post this cover message and the attachment on the committee website, and good luck with your deliberations. Although I am not in a position to attend meetings, I will do what I can from afar.


Alec Murphy



(Proposed by Alec Murphy, Professor of Geography)

Conflict of Interest/Commitment for Activities Beyond Regular Duties

1. Ask for reporting of outside activities (i.e., activities beyond the scope of regular university duties) on which faculty/OA's spend more than a few hours of time (on average) during the work week and that might represent a conflict of interest/commitment. (I propose a threshold below.) The following should be reported:

  • 2. Indicate that, under normal circumstances, if any of the foregoing activities takes more than 14% of the work week (averaged over a term? a year?) the activity will be considered not to be consistent with university commitments. Note specifically that activities unrelated to university duties that are undertaken on weekends and evenings are not an issue. Also make clear that conferences, talks on matters related to an individual's research and teaching, etc., are not what this is about. (The 14% figure represents the amount of time that triggers oversight under some interpretations of the one-day-in-seven rule - 13 days per term, if I am remembering correctly.) NOTE: Some kind of quantitative standard seems appropriate for these types of cases. The disclosure form should be limited to the kinds of items bulleted above.

    Balance of Commitment

    NOTE: This segment of the policy should have qualitative rather than quantitative standards and enforcement should kick in only when a pattern emerges of non-engagement with university obligations. The disclosure form should not try to deal with conflict of commitment matters.


    Consider renaming the "Office of Responsible Research" (given the Orwellian tone). Do not ask faculty to list regular research grants on the disclosure form. These are available elsewhere and, under any circumstances, do not constitute conflicts of interest/commitment.

    Web page spun on 16 January 2009 by Peter B Gilkey 202 Deady Hall, Department of Mathematics at the University of Oregon, Eugene OR 97403-1222, U.S.A. Phone 1-541-346-4717 of Deady Spider Enterprises