In December 2021, the Department of Energy (DOE) published an interim Conflict of Interest Policy, modeled on the existing Public Health Service financial conflict of interest regulation. The disclosure requirements of this policy are effective as of June 18, 2022 and apply to new funding or proposals received or submitted as of that date. In cases where DOE modifies the terms and conditions of existing awards, the new disclosure will also apply.
These conflict of interest requirements apply to Investigators participating in DOE-funded projects. Anyone meeting the definition below must be listed in the Key-Personnel section of ORBiT for the relevant proposals or awards.
Investigator means the principal investigator (PI) and any other person, regardless of title or position, who is responsible for the purpose, design, conduct, or reporting of a project funded by DOE or proposed for funding by DOE.
Investigators must complete conflict of interest training prior to engaging in new or continuing awards. The mandatory University of California - Ethics Briefing for Researchers is being updated to satisfy this training requirement. For compliance with DOE requirements, training must be completed every four years.
Investigators must disclose all Significant Financial Interests that relate to their Institutional Responsibilities. It is important to note that this process differs from NSF's policy, where the Investigator is only required to disclose Significant Financial Interests. The DOE policy requires that Investigators broadly disclose and that the institution determine whether each reported financial interest is related to the DOE-funded project. The definition of a Significant Financial Interest can be found in UCSB's campus policy.
Disclosures must be filed annually for each Investigator proposing or receiving DOE funding. Investigators will be notified by email if they are required to submit an annual disclosure through our electronic disclosure submission system (ORCOI).
PIs are required to notify our office if a new Investigator will be added to the project. Any new Investigator is required to submit a disclosure prior to beginning participation in the DOE-funded project. The PI may notify our office by emailing email@example.com
Investigators are required to update their annual disclosure within 30 days of acquiring or discovering a new significant financial interest. Similarly, you must notify the COI office if you have reduced or eliminated a previously reported significant financial interest that is subject to management conditions.
Sponsored or Reimbursed Travel
DOE-funded Investigators are required to disclose sponsored or reimbursed travel that is related to their institutional responsibilities. Reimbursed travel involves instances where the Investigator is directly reimbursed by a non-UCSB entity for the Investigator’s travel expenses. Sponsored travel involves situations where an Investigator’s travel is paid directly by the external sponsoring entity and is not reimbursed to the Investigator.
There are a number of exceptions to the travel disclosure requirement. Please note that these exceptions do not apply to foreign travel. You are not required to disclose travel that is reimbursed or sponsored by a domestic:
- Federal, state, or local government agency;
- institution of higher education as defined at 20 U.S.C. 1001 (a);
- academic or teaching hospital;
- medical center; or
- research institution that is affiliated with an institution of higher education.
Differences from PHS Requirements
While the DOE interim COI Policy is modeled after the PHS COI requirements, there are several differences between the two sets of requirements. Investigators that receive funding from both a PHS-agency and DOE should be aware of the following differences. This is not a comprehensive list of differences, and is limited to differences that are most relevant to Investigators. Note: Since the DOE interim COI Policy is not final, these differences are subject to change.
- Certification statement: Investigators must certify that each disclosure is true, complete, and accurate. DOE requires that specific certification language be used, which has been incorporated into our electronic disclosure form.
- Investigator definition: The DOE definition of Investigator includes anyone responsible for the purpose, design, conduct, or reporting of the DOE-funded research. The term “purpose” is not included in the corresponding PHS definition. Clarification from DOE indicates that the term “purpose” is intended to apply to businesses receiving DOE funding and is unlikely to apply in the university context.
Additionally, DOE program offices are permitted to expand the definition of Investigator to include persons who merely participate in a project, rather than those with a responsibility for the design, conduct, or reporting of a DOE-funded project. It is not anticipated that program offices will apply the expanded definition to basic research projects.
- Sponsored or reimbursed travel: While NIH allows for a $5,000 threshold for the reporting of sponsored or reimbursed travel, the DOE interim COI Policy requires that travel be disclosed regardless of value. However, DOE does not require reporting of travel that was reported in the Investigator's Current and Pending or Other Support disclosures to DOE.
Policy and References
- Department of Energy Interim Conflict of Interest Policy
- DOE Frequently Asked Questions (New as of September 2022)
- University of California - Policy PHS COI (this policy was updated on 6/17/22 to include the DOE policy)
- UCSB Research Circular - DOE COI policy (D.6)
- University of California - Interim Guidance on Requirements of the Department of Energy (DOE) Interim Conflict of Interest Policy