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As a place of learning, Simon Fraser University encourages its faculty, staff and students to be broadly involved in professional interests and activities compatible with the university’s mission, values and commitments. Occasionally, the best interests of the university and the personal interests of its members may conflict, or may be perceived to conflict.

To maintain public and professional trust and confidence, the university must deal with potential, perceived or real conflicts of interest in a fair, open, consistent and practical way.


On this Page

  1. Disclosing conflicts of interest
  2. Potential, perceived and real conflicts of interest
  3. Conflict of interest disclosure process


Disclosing conflicts of interest

An undisclosed, unmanaged conflict of interest, real, perceived or potential, damages good research standing and creates mistrust in the researcher, their colleagues and the institution that permitted the conflict. Not all conflicts of interest are avoidable, however disclosing conflicts of interest allows them to be properly managed before the research begins.

If you are in a situation where your personal interest is not, or does not appear to be, clearly separated from the university's official institutional capacity, you must make sure you are not involved in critical decision-making and that funding agencies are aware of your personal ties. Although you do not need to make that judgement call by yourself, you do need to be aware of how perceived conflicts can arise. SFU Policy GP37 is a good source of information.


Potential, perceived and real conflicts of interest

Research Ethics will help you manage the Conflict of Interest Disclosure process. If your answer to any of the following questions is ‘yes’, you will need to disclose a conflict of interest before starting your research.

  • Do you serve on the board of a company from which you are seeking research funding?
  • Do you wish to employ your well-qualified spouse or child to work on your research grant?
  • Do you hold intellectual property interests in a tool or testing device that will be used in a funded study, in part to assess the effectiveness of that tool or device?
  • Have you been reimbursed for travel or for a talk at a company that wishes to contract with SFU in support of your research?
  • Do you take fees as a director of a company whose business lies in your area of academic expertise?  Does the company employ students that you supervise?

Note that this is not an exhaustive list. Should you have any questions about conflicts of interest in your research, please contact Research Ethics by email at

Conflict of interest disclosure process

A PI or student completes a Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form (COI Form) to explain what the conflict is and their plan to manage the conflict. This form must then be submitted to their supervisor, Chair or Director for review who will then determine whether a conflict of interest exists and whether it can be effectively managed, or if it should be disallowed.

If the conflict of interest can be managed, and the supervisor, Chair or Director is satisfied with the management plan, the PI or student must then email the draft COI Form (without any signatures) to Research Ethics Research Ethics will then review the COI Form and may seek expert input from the SFU Research Ethics Board regarding the management plan. Once the management plan has been approved by Research Ethics, they will contact the PI or student with instructions on how to complete the COI Form.

Last updated: June 7, 2022