Conflicts of interest policy
- Sight Research UK is committed to funding the best research possible in order to develop new treatments and preventative measures for sight-threatening conditions, and to support the work of the whole sight research community, irrespective of personal or professional connection.
- This policy relates to all committees and funding panels of Sight Research UK, their Chairs and other members, including the Trustees of Sight Research UK.
- The purpose of this document is to minimise the potential for conflicts of interest arising and to protect Sight Research UK and those who work or volunteer for it from any perception, real or otherwise, that the external interests and affiliations of its committee members might interfere with their ability to work towards the furtherance of Sight Research UK’s strategic aims and objectives.
- We acknowledge that the relatively small and collaborative nature of the ophthalmology research community makes the avoidance of any conflict of interest in application review difficult. We have set out the following measures as standard practice to reduce the potential for conflicts of interest in our funding process, but know that these cannot cover all situations where conflicts could arise. As such we encourage all committee and funding panel members, Trustees and staff members to be open and honest in declaring any potential conflicts of interest.
2) DECLARATION OF INTEREST
- Any persons covered by this policy, as defined in paragraph 1, must declare any disclosable external interest on their appointment to Sight Research UK, and annually thereafter. A register of interests will be kept up to date by Sight Research UK.
- Interests which should be disclosed by such individuals include:
- Places of employment (current or within the last 12 months).
- Equity interests (if worth £10,000 or more, or more than 1% of the total issued capital) in enterprises with involvement in pharmaceuticals, healthcare, biotech or related areas, or in any other enterprise that may have a real or perceived interest in the work of Sight Research UK. Third party investments (e.g. ISAs) should be held exempt from this.
- Consultancies and other external appointments (paid and unpaid), together with details of any remuneration or other benefits arising from these.
- Members of the Research Advisory Board and Seed Award Panel (including Trustees and staff who serve on the Research Advisory Board as ex officio members) should also adhere to the spirit of this document and declare any other interests which they feel may be a source of conflict, or which might be perceived to conflict, with the interests of Sight Research UK. This includes interests held by the panel members’ spouses or children.
3) DISCUSSION OF PROPOSALS
- Details of applications, meeting papers and related correspondence, and the names of external referees are strictly confidential and should not be discussed with persons outside the review process.
- Discussions of a proposal between members of the Research Advisory Board which occur outside of a funding panel meeting should be declared to the Chair of the Research Advisory Board.
- Discussions of a proposal between members of the Seed Award Panel which occur outside of a funding panel meeting should be declared to the Chair of the Seed Award Panel.
- If a Board or Panel member (including serving Trustees) is approached by an applicant for technical advice on an application, they may provide advice, but must report this to the Board or Panel Chair and the Sight Research UK staff member who acts as the Board secretary (currently, the Operations Manager of Sight Research UK). They may subsequently be asked to absent themselves from a discussion of the application concerned.
4) MANAGING CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
- Where a panel member is an applicant or co-applicant on a grant application, they must declare an interest and withdraw from any consideration of that application. That member will not receive documents pertaining to the application, learn the identity of its referees or receive its referees' reports. They must retire from the meeting when the application is assessed. Details of discussion of that application will be deleted from any papers the member receives. This should also apply to Trustees who serve as panel members and are applicants in the grant round.
- Where the Chair of the Research Advisory Board or Seed Award Panel is an applicant or co-applicant on a grant application, they must declare an interest and should not be involved in that round of meetings. A Vice-Chair will chair the meeting to prevent any undue influence.
- Panel members who could be seen as a direct competitor of the applicant (e.g. they are funded or applying for funding on a similar project to the proposal under discussion) or have collaborated or published with the proposal applicant within the past three years, or work in the same institution, should declare an interest and may be asked to withdraw from the meeting for that application, or may be allowed to stay, but not vote on the application.
5) RESOLVING CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
- Sight Research UK recognises that the majority of conflicts or potential conflicts will relate to a particular issue and as such will not present any long-term restrictions on an individual’s ability to work for Sight Research UK or to sit on its advisory boards.
- In a small number of cases, major conflicts of interest may arise which compromise an individual’s ability to continue in their position within Sight Research UK. In such a situation, the matter will be discussed by the Chair of the committee together with the Sight Research UK staff member who acts as the Board secretary (currently, the Operations Manager of Sight Research UK). In cases where agreement cannot be reached through this means, the case will be referred to the Research Advisory Board or Seed Panel as a whole, whose decision should be taken as final.
- Members of the Research Advisory Board and Seed Award Panel are expected to declare any potential conflicts of interest relating to individual funding decisions to the Sight Research UK staff member who acts as the Board secretary (currently, the Operations Manager of Sight Research UK) before the meeting wherein they will be discussed, or during the meeting as soon as the existence of a conflict becomes apparent.
- In cases where an individual is uncertain as to whether a conflict of interest exists or not, they should report this to the Sight Research UK staff member who acts as the Board secretary (currently, the Operations Manager of Sight Research UK). The Board secretary shall discuss the matter with the individual as necessary and report to the Chair, who will decide on a course of action.
- If an individual is concerned about a possible conflict of interest involving another member of a funding panel, then they should raise the matter with the Chair of the Research Advisory Board, Chair of the Seed Panel, Chair of Trustees, Board Secretary or Sight Research UK Grants Team (email@example.com).
6) Updating the policy
- Sight Research UK will review this policy and make any necessary changes every two years, in consultation with the Board of Trustees.
Last updated: August 2023