Conflict of Interest
The INSPIRE Foundation enforces a strict protocol should any conflicts of interest (COI) arise. Inevitably, in the relatively specialised and small area of Spinal Cord Injury, it may be that an INSPIRE Trustee or Scientist has an interest in their private or professional capacity and as examples these may include:
- Geographical - the location where a future project could be researched.
- Scientific - the detailed nature of a project.
- Personal – where, through the nature of their own spinal injury, an individual may have a vested interest in one research area rather than another.
- Association - colleagues or associates involved in the INSPIRE business at hand.
- Financial - how a project or other investment might be funded.
Any such interests must be declared at appropriate meetings. In such cases, the Trustee or NSC Member will be permitted to brief their meeting, giving background information and of course take preliminary questions. They will then be invited to absent themselves from the conference room, while the other attendees discuss the issue and vote as necessary. The member may then re-join the meeting to be appraised of any decisions taken, or to answer any further questions before the NSC arrives at a decision.
Principal Investigators (PIs) on INSPIRE Funded Projects
In the past, when the research programme was smaller and much less expensive, there were occasions when members of the NSC acted as PIs, running INSPIRE funded projects. With advice from the AMRC, the Board of Trustees has deemed that such practices are no longer appropriate within this Charity, as they could create multi-stranded COI. INSPIRE’s amended policy is therefore, that PIs should NOT be members of the NSC.
Where it is considered, that the qualifications of a NSC member are such, that a good project could be jeopardised without their participation as PI, then the project must be protected. In this case, and if recommended by the NSC, the Board of Trustees may require that the PI steps down from the NSC, for the duration of their project. In such cases, following the completion of a Final Report, the PI may then put themselves forward for re-election to the NSC. Re-election will be contingent on the NSC’s majority vote. Each case will be considered pragmatically and on its own merits, first by the NSC and then, where necessary the Board or Trustees, which will always focus on the wider interests of the charity.