Conflict of Commitment and Outside Professional Activities

Outside Activities for UC San Diego Health Faculty and Physicians

The University of California acknowledges the value of faculty engagement in outside professional activities. Accordingly, faculty members are permitted to engage in outside consulting and other activities in accordance with University policies.
Relevant Policies:

  • Regent’s Standing Order 103.1(b) states that faculty members shall not allow outside employment to interfere with primary University duties.
  • APM 671 governs conflicts of commitment and provides procedures for managing outside professional activities for faculty members who are participants in the Health Sciences Compensation Plan.
  • APM 025 governs conflicts of commitment and provides procedures for managing outside professional activities for faculty members who are not participants in the Health Sciences Compensation Plan.

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What is a Conflict of Commitment?

Under University policy, a Conflict of Commitment occurs when a commitment to external activities, whether professional or non-professional, compensated or uncompensated, interferes with the successful performance of the faculty member’s University obligations. Where an outside activity has the potential to interfere with the primary professional obligation every eligible faculty member owes to the University, and thus create a Conflict of Commitment, there are certain steps that must be taken to ensure appropriate disclosure and approval.

What are Outside Professional Activities?

Outside Professional Activities are defined as those activities which are within a faculty member’s area(s) of professional, academic expertise and that advance or communicate that expertise through interaction with industry, the community, or the public. (APM 671-4(a)/APM 025-4(a)). University policy categorizes Outside Professional Activities into 3 categories based upon the degree in which the activity may interfere with the faculty member’s University obligations. Each category has varying requirements including annual disclosure and prior approval. The disclosure and approval requirements for a given faculty member will depend upon the faculty member’s appointment and the type of outside activity in which the faculty member seeks to participate (see Disclosure Requirements Chart below).

As an MSP Staff Physician, does the University regulate my outside activities?

Yes! The outside activities of MSP Staff physicians are governed by the terms of the UCSD Health Sciences Compensation Plan for Staff Physicians and the MSP contract outlining the terms of your appointment. The applicability of the policies and disclosure requirements will depend on the percentage of effort of your appointment (see Disclosure Requirements Chart below).

Categories of Outside Professional Activities

The relevant policy categorizes outside activities into 3 categories based upon the degree in which the activity has the propensity to interfere with the faculty member’s University obligations. Please refer to APM 671/APM 025 for detailed descriptions of each Category. 

  • Category I: Activities which are most likely to create a Conflict of Commitment because they relate to the training and expertise which forms the basis of the faculty member’s qualification for University appointment and/or the activity requires significant professional commitment.
    • Examples:
      • Teaching/Research/Administration of a grant at an entity outside the University;
      • Employment outside the University;
      • Assuming a founding/co-founding role of a company;
      • Assuming an executive or managerial position outside of the University (excluding positions with professional societies)
  • Category II: Short term activities outside the course and scope of University employment.
    • Examples:
      • Additional University-compensated teaching;
      • Consulting: 1) under the auspices of the University of California; 2) for for-profit entities; 3) for non-profit entities; 4) for non-profit health or education related organizations; 5) for government agencies;
      • Serving on the board of directors outside of the University;
      • Providing or presenting a workshop for industry;
      • Providing outside consulting or compensated professional activities performed for entities such as the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories;
      • Other income-generating activities
  • Category III: Activities within the course and scope of University employment and unlikely to raise conflict of commitment issues.
    • Examples:
      • Serving on government or professional panels or committees or as an officer or board member of a professional or scholarly society;
      • Reviewing manuscripts or acting in an editorial capacity;
      • Attending and presenting talks at university/academic colloquia and conferences;
      • Developing scholarly or creative works

What are the disclosure and/or approval requirements for the different categories of Outside Professional Activities?

Based upon the faculty members appointing series and percentage of effort, Outside Professional Activities which may cause a Conflict of Commitment must be disclosed and/or approved based upon the nature of the activity.

  • Category I Activities: A faculty member wishing to engage in a Category I Activity must complete a Prior Approval Form, requesting authorization to engage in the activity prior to commencing the outside activity. If Prior Approval is authorized, the approved activity must be disclosed on the “Report of Category I and II Compensated Outside Professional Activities” form for each fiscal year, including description of activity and earnings derived from activity.
    • It is the faculty member’s responsibility to ensure that all appropriate endorsements and approvals are obtained. It is strongly recommended that any Prior Approval Form be submitted with a supplemental memo detailing the nature of the outside activity (including role, responsibilities, and time commitment required), the intended duration of the activity, and why it is in UCSD’s best interest to authorize the request.
  • Category II Activities: All Category II activities must be disclosed on the “Report of Category I and II Compensated Outside Professional Activities” form for each fiscal year, including description of activity and earnings derived from activity.
  • Category III Activities: There is no disclosure requirement nor prior approval required for Category III activities since they all fall within the course and scope of the faculty member’s University appointment.

For an overview of the approval and disclosure requirements based upon appointment series and percentage of effort, please review the Disclosure Requirements Chart.

How do I get approval to participate in a Category I Outside Activity?

Requests for Prior Approval to participate in a Category I Outside Activity are reviewed by the Health Sciences Compliance Advisory Group (CAG) and approved by the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs on behalf of the Vice Chancellor for the School of Medicine. Each request is individually reviewed by CAG for potential conflicts that may arise as a result of the activity including intellectual property issues, conflicts of interest, and feasibility of management plans. Prior to rendering a formal recommendation to the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, CAG may submit requests for additional information or instructions for further communications.

For an overview of the process for requesting Prior Approval for a Category I activity, please review the Prior Approval Request Process Map. For any questions or to submit your request, please contact Sarah Suskauer, Principal Compliance Analyst at ssuskauer@ucsd.edu or (858) 657-6784.

Are there time and earnings limitations with respect to my outside activities?

Depending on your appointing series and percentage of effort, the applicable University policy does regulate both the amount of time a faculty member/physician can spend on outside activities and how the earnings from those activities are retained. In general, the following provisions will apply for all faculty members and MSP contract physicians with an appointment at greater than 50% effort (please refer to the relevant policy for your appointment):  

  • Time Limits: Time devoted to outside professional activities, either compensated or uncompensated, may not exceed 48 days annually.
  • Earnings: Maximum annual earnings from outside activities is up to $40,000 or 40% if the fiscal year base salary scale (scale 0), whichever is greater
    • Procedures:
      • Earnings up to the approved threshold may be directly retained by the physician (either faculty or staff), but must be disclosed in accordance with annual reporting requirements.
      • Earnings above the approved threshold, with the exception of income from Category III activities, must be deposited to the HS Compensation Plan, and is thus subject to the established Department and/or School assessment policies.

How are conflicts of commitment managed?

UC San Diego Health has a committee, the Compliance Advisory Group (CAG), which is comprised of senior leadership across Health Sciences and Campus who reviews and advises on all matters relating to conflict of commitment. In addition to this function, CAG also reviews, investigates, and advises on all matters relating to compliance with University policy and state and/or federal regulations. Any individual may submit an inquiry for review to CAG for formal assessment, and we encourage all our physicians and employees to make use of CAG as an available resource on compliance issues. To inquire about submitting an item for review, please contact Sarah Suskauer at ssuskauer@ucsd.edu or (858) 657-6784.

In addition to issues relating to conflict of commitment, outside activities may also present issues related to conflicts of interest. UCSD has a separate office specifically for reviewing and managing conflicts of interest. Please refer to the Conflicts of Interest tab for additional information.