Creating Conflict Management Plans

A conflict management plan is a written understanding of the situation that gives rise to a conflict of commitment and/or interest and the management mechanisms that will be implemented to mitigate or eliminate the conflict.

Creating, implementing, and monitoring a conflict management plan is a collaborative effort among the academic staff member, their department chair or head and dean, a management oversight committee, departmental staff, and the conflict of interest officer.

Steps in Conflict Management Plan Development

  1. Schedule a meeting with the academic staff member, their unit executive officer (UEO), and the conflict of interest officer.
  2. Download the Conflict Management Plan template and edit it to address the academic staff member’s specific situation.
  3. The UEO appoints a conflict oversight committee, typically three peers of the conflicted academic staff member, that will review the conflict management plan and provide feedback.
  4. Once a draft plan that addresses the concerns of the academic staff member, the unit, the committee, and the campus is completed, the home unit will circulate the plan for approval signatures. The academic staff member, the management oversight committee, the UEO of the home unit, the administrator at the next level, typically a dean, and the conflict of interest officer all sign the plan.

When to Create a Conflict Management Plan

If an academic staff member or their start-up company meets any of the criteria below, a conflict management plan must be developed and implemented.

  • The activity requires a significant commitment of time from the employee (e.g., one day per seven-day-week during the academic staff member’s appointment period).
  • The company licenses university intellectual property of which the academic staff member is the inventor.
  • The company employs university students or other university employees.
  • The activity or company utilizes university resources, such as laboratory space, equipment, office space, or computing resources.
  • The activity involves the academic staff member’s UEO, the dean, or other senior management within a unit.
  • The company funds sponsored research or gifts at the university.
  • The company executes a facilities use or technical testing agreement with the university.
  • The company subcontracts to the university from awards such as SBIR, STTR, or DARPA on which the company is prime or accepts subcontracts from awards on which the university is prime.

In some cases, where the company has a low level of activity and none of the above conditions apply, the conflicts of interest and commitment may be managed through disclosure in the RNUA and/or an MOU between the academic staff member and the UEO.

In addition to the cases of start-up companies listed above, a conflict management plan may be required if it appears necessary for any other reason, for example, if the distinction between the academic staff member’s work for the university and his/her outside activity is not clear; even if university intellectual property is not being licensed.

Contents of Conflict Management Plans

In general, a conflict management plan contains sections covering the following topics.


  • Section I: Management of Employee Conflict of Commitment
  • Section II: Managing Conflicts of Interest Concerning Involvement of Other University Personnel
  • Section III: Relationship Between the Company and the Employee’s Research (or Other University Responsibilities)
  • Section IV: Management of Conflicts of Interest Concerning Use of University Resources or Intellectual Property
  • Section VI: Management of Conflicts of Interest Relating to Human Subjects Research (When Applicable)
  • Section VII: Review Cycle and Reporting, Including List of Topics for Annual Report to the VCRI
  • Section VI: Attachments
  • Signatures: The document must be approved by the academic staff member (s), the UEO(s), the dean(s), the institute director (if applicable), the members of the management oversight committee, and the conflict of interest officer

Background Information Needed from the Employee

To facilitate the development of a conflict management plan, the employee is asked to provide the following information:

  • Business aims of the company or goals of other activity.
  • Status of the company or other activity.
  • Expected time commitment.
  • Anticipated involvement of students or other university employees.
  • Anticipated desire to use university resources, possible technical testing, or facilities-use agreement.
  • Anticipated sponsored activity between the university and the company.
  • Relationship between the employee’s university responsibilities and the outside activity.
  • Any current or potential future sponsored funding from the Public Health Service or the Department of Energy.
  • Status of any licensing arrangements with the university.
  • Any concerns the employee may have.
  • A sample template is available.

Configuration of Conflict Management Plans

At times, multiple academic staff members from the same unit are involved in the same activity, and all need conflict management plans. A best practice is for each academic staff member to have their own plan but utilize a common management oversight committee for each of the plans.

If multiple academic staff members from different departments are involved, a best practice is to utilize a common committee to serve for each of the staff member’s plans. The UEOs can designate one of the units to appoint conflict oversight committee members from each department.

Conflicts Management for Administrators

When a UEO is conflicted in their oversight role, the dean or school director will work with the conflict of interest officer to develop a strategy for oversight that does not involve the UEO, for example, moving conflict management to the college, with oversight by the dean’s designee.

If a dean is conflicted in their oversight role, the Provost will work with the conflict of interest officer to develop a strategy for conflict management that does not include the dean.