Conflict of Interest

Conflict of Interest Guidelines for Observing Facilities Assessment Panel (OFAP) Members


NCAR strives to manage all procedures related to assessing, reviewing, and evaluating requests for the NSF Lower Atmosphere Observing Facilities (LAOF) resources in a fair, non-biased, and objective manner. Assessments and recommendations provided by the Observing Facilities Assessment Panel (OFAP) are based on objective judgments of the feasibility and merit of each request, without regard to personal biases. The guidelines presented here provide a framework by which Conflict-of-Interest (COI) situations can be identified and resolved, thus minimizing the level of personal bias in the facility use and field project assessment process. These guidelines are based on the NSF Conflict of Interest Guidelines.

Responsibilities of OFAP Members

The appointment as an OFAP member requires awareness of actual and potential COI situations that may arise when a request is assigned. Examples of frequent conflicts of interest, including potentially biasing affiliations or relationships, are listed below. A COI with one or more LAOF requests may exist when OFAP members are asked to review such documents.

In some instances, a COI is known only to the individual Panel Member. Once queried for review preferences ahead of an OFAP meeting, each Panel Member is responsible for declaring the COI to the LAOF Request Coordinator before review assignments are finalized. Once the meeting starts, additional COI not previously realized should be brought promptly to the attention of the OFAP Chair. The OFAP Chair, together with the EOL Director, will determine how the matter should be handled and what additional steps, if any, should be taken. In most cases where the OFAP Chair and EOL Director have judged that an actual or potential COI exists, the conflicted Panel Member is asked to excuse himself/herself from the meeting during those discussions. In other instances, when the COI is judged by the OFAP Chair and the EOL Director to be minor or nonexistent, the Panel Member will continue to participate in the discussions. Members who have submitted a facility request as either a Principal Investigator (PI) or Co-PI are excused from attending the OFAP meeting altogether.

Examples of Potential Conflict-of-Interest Situations

COIs (actual or potential) must be declared if any of the various affiliations or relationships listed below are valid:

(1) Institutional Conflict

An institutional conflict exists if the Panel Member has an affiliation with the same institution as either the principal investigator, co-investigator or another, listed member of the PI Team. In the case of NCAR, direct conflicts are with all NCAR Laboratories. Those conflicts include

Current employment such as professor, adjunct professor, visiting scientist or similar position at the Institution

Seeking employment with the Institution within the last 12 months

Having a re-employment agreement within the Institution

Currently serving on a visiting committee or similar body at the Institution. Please note that the conflict is with the part of the Institution that is advised by the committee

Serving as the holder of any office, governing board membership, or relevant committee chairpersonship in the Institution

(2) Individual Conflict

Relationships with an Investigator or another person who has a personal interest in the request. Those conflicts include

Spouse, family or domestic partnership relationship

Business or professional partnership

Present or past Ph.D. advisor

A former employer within the last 12 months

Co-authorship within the past 24 months (peer-reviewed publication only)

Scientific collaborator within the last 48 months

(3) Other Conflicts

Relationships with the requestor or the request. The interests of the following persons are to be treated as if they were the Panel member’s own. Those conflicts include

A competitive relationship, such as if the Panel Member were a PI or Co-PI on a facility request up for review at the upcoming meeting, that competes in some way (for schedule, facilities, or other resources) with the program under consideration by the OFAP

Any other relationship, such as close personal friendship that might affect the Panel Member’s judgments, or be seen as doing so by a reasonable person familiar with the relationship

Any other conflicts that are known to the Panel Member that would prevent him/her from reviewing a project in a non-biased, fair and objective way