The MRC expects all funded researchers, both clinical and non-clinical, to adopt the highest achievable standards in the conduct of their research. This means exhibiting impeccable scientific integrity and following the principles of good research practice detailed in the MRC’s good research practice guidelines.
As part of this, any private, personal or commercial interests relating to an application for funding to the research councils must be declared in a covering letter included as an application attachment.
Where the MRC is involved directly with a cofunder, the cofunder will be named in the guidance for the MRC call for proposals and the applicant should state if there is any potential conflict of interest. This should be included in the covering letter and be discussed with the relevant programme manager before application.
What constitutes a conflict of interest?
A conflict of interest is a situation in which a person named on the application – or a senior member of the lead organisation who may be involved in the management of the grant – is in a position to derive personal benefit from actions or decisions made in their capacity as grant holder, or has interests which might influence their objectivity in conducting the research or reporting the findings.
What interests should be declared?
Applicants should declare any interests which anyone named on the application – or a senior member of the lead organisation who may be involved in the management of the grant – has with any individual, organisation, project partner or supplier involved in the research, or any interest that might be perceived to influence the applicant’s objectivity in conducting the research.
1. Personal remuneration from organisations or project partners involved in the proposed research – other than the named employing organisation.
Includes consultancies, directorships, honoraria – both past and present – from organisations other than that listed within the application as the employer.
Example: a consultancy, directorship or significant research collaboration with a company that makes a drug, treatment or piece of equipment that will be evaluated or used during the research.
2. Significant shareholdings or other financial Interests in organisations which are involved in or might benefit from the research.
Include the name of the company and the nature of the interests. Indirect shareholder interests – via unit trusts or pension funds managed by others, for example – need not be declared.
Example: shareholdings with a market value equal to or greater than £10,000 or represent more than 1% of the total shares in the company.
3. Research support – financial or in kind – from commercial organisations involved in the grant or which might benefit from the outcome of the research that are not mentioned in the application.
Also include ownership of intellectual property whose value may be affected by the outcome of the research
4. Un-remunerated involvement with any organisation named on the application or which might benefit from the research or its outcomes.
This may include non-executive and advisory positions, directorships and other positions of authority.
5. Political or pressure group associations. Any relevant political or pressure group associations of the applicants – including paid posts and high-profile unpaid roles – should be declared.
Example: trusteeship of a charity with interests relevant to the area of research in the application.
6. Family. Declarations should also include any relevant known interests of immediate family members and any persons living in the same household.
Applicants should also consider whether they need to disclose relevant known interests of any other person with whom they have a relationship which is likely to appear, to a reasonable person, to influence their independence and objectivity. Please indicate which category of interest applies. Family members do not need to be identified, either by name or their relationship to the applicants.
Example: a family member or close friend who works in sales for – or has a significant financial interest in – a company that is a potential supplier of major equipment or materials that will be purchased using the grant funding.
Research Council terms and conditions include a requirement for research organisations (ROs) to have effective processes in place to manage conflicts of interest. Where the applicant or RO considers that an interest does give rise to a clear conflict, a proposed plan for managing that conflict should be included in the covering letter. If new conflicts arise once an award has been made these should be declared and managed using the ROs established processes.
Interests declared will be scrutinised by Research Council staff and drawn to the attention of members of panels or boards making the decision on funding. Conditions relating to how conflicts should be managed may be attached to awards.