USC Office of Compliance

Institutional Conflict of Interest in Research

Institutional Conflict of Interest in Research


An institutional conflict of interest occurs when a financial interest of the university (e.g., investments held by the university in a company) has the potential to bias research conducted by its employees or students, or creates an unacceptable risk to human subjects.

Such conflicts occur most frequently in situations where a research project provides a direct benefit to an outside entity through evaluation, validation, trial or test of an invention, product, drug, service or technology, and the university holds a financial interest in the outside entity. Such financial interests include, but are not limited to, receipt of licensing payments or royalties from the outside entity, or an ownership interest in the outside entity.

When a research project involves human subjects and the institution maintains such a financial interest, the conflict of interest is presumed to be unacceptable. The research will only be allowed to proceed at USC if there are compelling circumstances that justify allowing the research to proceed despite the presence of the conflict.