Conflict of Commitment Policy

I. Purpose

A Boston University faculty member’s primary professional commitment of time and intellectual energy is to teaching, research (including creative work), and service to the University.  The specific responsibilities comprising this commitment may vary among schools and colleges, and should be based on a shared understanding between the faculty member and the relevant unit head.

“External Professional Activity” means activities engaged in by faculty outside of Boston University  that utilize the expertise or knowledge the faculty member has developed or is developing in carrying out their University responsibilities in teaching, research or service.  The University recognizes that External Professional Activity is beneficial if it furthers a faculty member’s ongoing professional development and enhances their teaching and research capabilities as well as their reputation and that of the University.  However, a conflict can arise when a faculty member’s External Professional Activity conflicts with their commitment to the University as, for example, by compromising the amount or quality of their participation in the instructional, scholarly, or administrative work of the University or otherwise affecting (or appearing to affect) their judgment in carrying out University responsibilities.

The purpose of this policy is to assist faculty members in avoiding conflicts of commitment by clarifying the responsibilities of the faculty member and the expectations of the University with respect to External Professional Activity.  While this policy applies to the entire University, individual schools or colleges may wish to develop more specific guidelines to take into account their particular circumstances.

II. Covered Parties

Except as otherwise indicated, this policy applies to all salaried faculty members.

III. Permitted Time Commitment for External Professional Activity

External Professional Activity is generally limited to 20% of the faculty member’s total professional effort during their contract year. Faculty members must ensure that External Professional Activities do not prevent them from fulfilling their primary responsibilities. External Professional Activity that results in the neglect of contacts with students or that creates an undue burden for colleagues is by definition inappropriate.

The time limitations in this section do not apply during unpaid periods, such as the remaining three months for faculty on nine‐month appointments or during unpaid leave.

In addition, certain types of External Professional Activities must be approved in advance as described in Section VI below, even if they fall within this time commitment.

IV. Use of University Resources and Consulting

Faculty may not use University resources (including but not limited to funds, facilities, and equipment), personnel (including students and University employees), confidential information, or indicators of University endorsement in connection with External Professional Activities except in a purely incidental way. This does not preclude faculty from identifying Boston University as their employer in reports, publications, or presentations.

When entering into consulting agreements, faculty should make clear to the outside entity that their primary duty is to Boston University and their participation is subject to the University’s policies on intellectual property. Agreements that impose restrictions on the freedom to publish University-based work are not permitted. Faculty consulting with external organizations must make clear that they are acting in their individual capacity and not on behalf of Boston University. 

V. Prohibited Activities

Faculty members who have full-time appointments at Boston University are prohibited from holding a full-time or part-time tenured or tenure-track position at another educational institution, or any position which would be considered a permanent or primary position or constitute more than 20% time at the other institution. Examples include, but are not limited to, a full-time faculty appointment, which includes teaching and/or research duties at the second institution or an administrative appointment as a dean at the second institution. This prohibition applies even if the faculty member is on leave status from the University, regardless of the type or status of the leave and whether paid or unpaid. Limited exceptions to this rule, e.g. service to National Science Foundation, require prior approval by the Dean and the Provost and normally have a three-year term limit.

VI. Activities that Must Be Approved in Advance

Regardless of the faculty member’s time commitment, the following activities require prior written approval.

Prior Written Approval by the Dean or Dean’s Designee:

  1. External Teaching or Course Development
    Faculty members are not permitted to teach at other institutions without prior written approval. This policy applies equally to courses taught in person, via the Internet, or by some other method of electronic transmittal. This requirement for pre-approval does not apply to participation in single guest lectures, seminars, or workshops as an invited speaker. When there is any question as to whether an outside engagement falls within the range of allowable activities, a faculty member should first consult with their department chair or dean.A faculty member may not develop a course or substantial parts of a course, including distance-education courses (see also the Faculty Involvement in University Digital Courses Policy), or develop courseware, for any entity other than Boston University without prior written approval.
  2. Compensated Appointments at Other Educational Institutions
    For those appointments not prohibited by Section V above, a faculty member shall not hold any other type of compensated appointment at any other educational institution without prior written approval.
  3. Certain Activities with Outside Entities
    • Any work that includes managerial or executive responsibilities in a private or public entity or assumption of a board position in a for-profit company requires prior written approval.
    • Activities that involve restricted University information require prior written approval.
  4. External Professional Activities Involving BU Students
    External Professional Activities which directly or indirectly involve BU students in anything other than their normal academic pursuits require prior written approval.

Prior Written Approval of the Vice President & Associate Provost for Research:

  1. Service as PI or Co-PI for Other Entities
    Faculty members may not serve as principal investigator or co-principal investigator on an externally funded project or award that is administered by a for-profit entity, foreign entity, or academic institution other than Boston University and Boston Medical Center without prior written approval. This approval must be acquired prior to grant submission and is limited to 20% of the faculty member’s total professional effort. This does not include domestic, research-focused organizations such as those administered by the National Academy of Sciences, HHMI, NBER, or other research organizations that do not pose a conflict with BU.

Approval Through Other University Processes:

  1. Consulting for Research Sponsor
    Service as a consultant to a firm which in turn sponsors the faculty member’s work or related work at the University must be approved through the University’s Investigator Financial Conflict of Interest Policy for Research.
  2. Commercial Activity Involving Non-BU Parties
    Service to a firm founded by a faculty member or in which the faculty member has a significant financial interest must be approved through the Disclosure and Approval Request Form process.
  3. Conflict of Interest
    Business, financial, or family relationships that might enable (or appear to enable) the faculty member to influence the University’s dealings with an outside organizations or potential University hires in ways leading to personal gain or other conflicts of interest must be approved through the University’s general Conflict of Interest Policy.

VII. Reporting

Every faculty member must submit annually the External & International Activity Report (EIAR) to their dean which should include any pre-approved activities. After reviewing the report, the dean or dean’s designee will seek to resolve with the faculty member any concerns about the faculty member’s activities or refer the concerns to the appropriate provost if a resolution cannot be achieved.

VIII. Appeal of Decision by Dean or Associate Provost for Research

In the event that permission to engage in a particular type of External Professional Activity is denied, the faculty member may appeal that decision to the University Provost or the Provost’s designee.

Voted by the University Council 7/28/20, approved by the President 7/31/20.

This policy replaces the previous External Professional Activity Policy