As conflicts of commitment usually involve time allocation on the part of faculty, it is the understanding of Koç University that faculty is expected to maintain a significant physical presence on campus throughout the academic year, to be accessible to students and staff, and to be available to interact with the colleagues at Koç University. This presence is a requirement of being on full-time appointment unless the Dean, VPAA and the President have granted specific prior approval for extended or frequent absences from campus.

Although Koç University encourages faculty to become involved in the transfer of knowledge from the University into industry, such outside professional activities are considered to be a privilege and not a right and must not detract from the full-time obligation of the faculty member to his/her University duties. When any outside activity detracts from the conduct of University duties, a conflict of commitment is likely to result. Even activities such as pro bono work, government service in the public interest, and any outside employment unrelated to the University responsibilities of the faculty member should be managed properly so that they do not take precedence over the primary commitment of the faculty member to the University.

Inevitably, outside professional activities may generate conflicts of interest regardless of the time involved, as they are common and practically unavoidable in a modern research university. At Koç University, conflicts of interest can arise out of the fact that a mission of the University is to promote public good by fostering the transfer of knowledge gained through University research and scholarship to the private sector. Two important means of accomplishing this mission include faculty consulting and the commercialization of technologies/methodologies/knowledge derived from faculty research. It is appropriate that faculty be rewarded for their participation in these activities through consulting fees and by sharing in royalties resulting from the commercialization of their work. However, it is inappropriate for the actions or decisions of an individual made in the course of his/her University activities to be determined by considerations of personal financial gain. Such behavior calls into question the professional objectivity and ethics of the individual, and it also reflects negatively on the University.

Conflicts of interest related to research involving human subjects pose special concerns. The University and its researchers have ethical obligations to honor the rights and protect the safety of persons who participate in research conducted at or by the University. Financial interests held by those conducting the research or by the sponsor of the research may compromise or appear to compromise the fulfillment of those ethical obligations and the well-being of the research subjects, as well as the integrity of the related research. Accordingly, there is a strong presumption against permitting any person with related significant financial interests to participate in the conduct of such research, particularly if the protocol involves more than minimal risk. Only in rare and compelling circumstances might an exception be made. The University Committee on Human Research (CHR), which is charged with reviewing and monitoring human subjects research, has established a rigorous policy and procedure for review of financial interests related to human subjects’ research performed at the University or by University researchers. These policies and procedures are intended to supplement the Koç University Policy on Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment.

Here are some examples of conflicts of commitment and interest:

  • Direction of a program of research or scholarship at another institution that could be conducted appropriately at Koç University as part of the normal duties of the faculty member can deprive our students, colleagues and our institution of the benefits of the primary intellectual energies of the faculty member.
  • Submitting research proposals through channels other than Koç University to support work that could be performed at Koç University is another example. First, the use of Koç University resources in the course of such work is practically unavoidable. Second, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for the University to review and reward the contributions of Koç University faculty, staff, and students for work managed and/or conducted elsewhere. Third, such action can result in situations that place students and staff in conflicts of interest. For these reasons, Koç University faculty members on full-time active duty are normally prohibited from serving as Principal Investigators on sponsored projects submitted and managed through other institutions. This stipulation is not intended to limit faculty from participating in multi-site training or research programs. Nor is it intended to apply to circumstances in which the research of the faculty member requires access to facilities not available at Koç University. For special circumstances, permission for such activities may be granted by the Offices of VPRD and the President.
  • Significant management roles (those that involve supervision of the work of others and/or day-to-day responsibility for operating decisions) in private business typically are demanding both in terms of time and energy. It is unlikely that such roles can be fulfilled by a manager working only 1 day per week, the maximum time permitted for full-time faculty to engage in outside consulting activities. Because full-time faculty are expected to devote their primary energies and professional interests to their University obligations, they may not accept significant managerial responsibilities as part of their outside consulting activities. Normally, it would be necessary for faculty to take a full leave of absence from their University responsibilities in order to take on a significant management role in an outside entity. Engaging in such activities while being on sabbatical is not appropriate, since the purpose of a sabbatical is expressly to allow the faculty member to advance in his/her scholarly research.
  • Whenever faculty members are involved in research as part of their outside consulting or business activities, they must establish clear boundaries that separate their University and outside obligations, so as to avoid questions about their appropriate use of resources and attributions of products of their work.
  • Faculty and staff who consult should remember that their primary employer is Koç University and that they have a heightened responsibility to their primary employer when deciding whether to assign their inventions to Koç University or to a company for whom they consult. If they have questions, they should consult with the Office of the VPRD before deciding to whom the invention should be assigned.
  • It is a conflict for Koç University faculty or staff to accept research sponsorship from a company in which they have a significant financial interest. The conflict arises because the outcome of the research could materially affect the personal wealth of the researcher or an immediate family member. Therefore, it is possible that the objectivity of the faculty member as to whether he/she fosters an atmosphere of academic freedom by
    • promoting the open and timely exchange of results of scholarly activities,
    • ensuring that their advising of students and postdoctoral scholars is independent of personal commercial interests, and
    • informing students and colleagues about outside obligations that might influence the free exchange of scholarly information between them and the faculty member could reasonably be questioned. This policy, however, should not prevent an investigator from receiving research support from a company just because the researcher or a family member owns some shares in the company.

Other forms of conflict, in the more traditional meaning of conflict of interest, derive from the opportunities an individual may have because of his/her position at the institution to influence the relationship of Koç University with an outside organization in ways that would lead directly to personal financial gain for the individual. Potential conflicts of interest of a particularly sensitive nature may arise from opportunities that an individual may have to influence or to be influenced improperly by personal relationships, in ways that are not consistent with the education and employment policies and the principles to which Koç University is committed, especially in the context of educational or employment supervision and evaluation.

In response to these concerns, Koç University has adopted the following statement of policy: It is the policy of Koç University that its officers, faculty, staff, and others acting on its behalf have the obligation to avoid ethical, legal, financial, or other conflicts of interest and to ensure that their activities and interests do not conflict with their obligations to the University or its welfare.

Essential to effective administration and adherence to this policy are the annual disclosure of outside activities and interests to the Office of the Dean, including financial interests that might give rise to conflicts.