Conflict-of-Interest Guidelines for OFAP Members


NCAR policy is that OFAP procedures for NSF Lower Atmosphere Observing Facilities (LAOF) resources are fair and equitable to all requestors. Recommendations and decisions are based on objective judgments of merit without regard to subjective personal biases. The guidelines presented here provide a framework by which potential 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.

Responsibilities of Members

Appointment as an OFAP member requires awareness of potential COI situations that may arise. Examples of potentially biasing affiliations or relationships are listed below. A COI with one or more LAOF requests or EDOs may exist when OFAP members are asked to review such documents including associated research proposals.

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 potential COI to the LAOF Request Coordinator before review assignments are finalized. Once the meeting starts, additional COI not previously realized will have to be brought promptly to the attention of the OFAP Chair. The Chair together with the EOL Director determines how the matter should be handled and additional steps, if any, to take. In most cases where the Chair and EOL Director have judged that a real COI exists, the conflicted Panel member is asked to excuse himself/herself from the meeting during those discussions. In a situation where a probable COI exists, the member is directed to abstain from the discussions on that particular request. In other instances when the COI is judged to be minor, the member will continue to participate in the discussions. Members who have submitted a facility request as either a PI or Co-PI are excused from attending the OFAP meeting.

Examples of Potential Conflict-of-Interest Situations

Potential COIs must be declared if any of the various affiliations or relationships listed below are valid:

(1) Affiliations with the same institution as the requestor

Employment currently or within the last 12 months within the same department as a professor, adjunct professor, visiting professor, or similar position. In the case of NCAR, direct conflicts are within the same NCAR Laboratory only.

Current membership on a visiting committee or similar body at the institution. The holder of any office, governing board membership, or relevant committee chairpersonship in the institution.

(2) Relationships with an Investigator or another person who has a personal interest in the request and/or proposal

Known family or marriage relationship. The COI exists only if the relationship is with a principal investigator or co-investigator.

Business or professional partnership.

Significant collaboration on a project within the last 12 months.

(3) Other 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:

A competitive relationship, such as would exist if the Panel member were a PI or Co-PI on a proposal or facility request 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 member’s judgments, or be seen as doing so by a reasonable person familiar with the relationship.

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