Conflict-of-Interest, Confidentiality, and Professional Conduct in Competitive Review

The essence of competitive review of a proposal or application is fair and objective assessment based solely on criteria that are selected to identify merit and achievement. The success of the review committee in performing its functions depends upon the effectiveness of its decision-making processes. If judgments are warped or prejudiced because of conflicting interests, that effectiveness is compromised. Review committees at the University of Alaska Anchorage must earn the confidence of its community of faculty and scholars, staff, and students, as well as the public outside the institution, in the integrity, effectiveness, and evenhandedness of its decision-making processes. They will not do so if those processes are seen to be compromised by conflicts of interests.

A conflict of interests is a clash between a reviewer’s concern for objectivity and their private interests and allegiances. This is particularly exacerbated in those cases where we are asked to judge the work of colleagues within our own campus. Some conflicts of interest would so warp the performance of a review committee or damage its credibility that they simply cannot be allowed to occur. Most of these are associated with financial or personal interests, and are explicitly addressed by State and University ethical standards. These either absolutely prohibit you from doing certain things that could give rise to such conflicts or disqualify you from participating in matters where you have a potentially serious conflict. View this link for an excellent resource regarding the subject of employee ethics.

Not all conflicts of interests are so serious and clear that flat prohibition or disqualifications are appropriate. Many conflicts, though real, are subtle, even remote. The seriousness of others so depends on circumstances of the particular case that unvarying rules would be impractical.

The committee receives proposals in confidence and protects the confidentiality of their contents. For this reason, you must not copy, quote, or otherwise use or disclose to anyone any material from any proposal you are asked to review. This includes the name of applicant, the title of the proposal, or its subject. If you believe a colleague can make a substantial contribution to the review, you must obtain permission from the chair of the committee before disclosing either the contents of the proposal or the name of any applicant or principal investigator.

We will keep reviews and the identity of reviewer of specific proposals confidential to the maximum extent possible, except that we will send to the applicants reviews of their own proposals without the name of the reviewer or other identifying information. Members of a review committee must respect the confidentiality of all applicants and of other reviewers. Reviewers must not disclose the identity of other reviewers, the relative assessments or rankings of proposals, or other details about the peer review of proposals.

Conflict of Interests for Members of Review Committees

Personal affiliations with an applicant.  

A reviewer will have a conflict if they have:

  • a business or professional partnership with the applicant;
  • a known family relationship covered by State and University ethical standards;
  • other relationships, such as close personal friendship, that might tend to affect judgment or be seen as doing so by a reasonable person familiar with the relationship.

Professional affiliations with an applicant.

A reviewer may have a conflict if they have:

  • a past or present association as a thesis advisor or mentor;
  • collaborated on a project or on a book, article, report, or paper within the last 12 months;
  • co-edited a journal, compendium, or conference proceeding within the last 12 months;
  • a supervisory position with the applicant, such as department chairman or dean.

Other conflicts

  • A reviewer may have a conflict if they feel that their judgment is compromised by other factors not listed here. If in doubt, this should be discussed in confidence with the chair of the review committee, who will determine whether the conflict is serious or close enough to jeopardize fair and objective assessment.