I. Defining a “conflict of interest”
A “conflict of interest” is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgment regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest (Thompson, D.F. 1993. Understanding Financial Conflicts of Interest. NEJM 329: 573-6). In the case of award and grant selection committees, the primary interest lies in rating or ranking applications or scholarly works as objectively as possible using the evaluation criteria of the specific prize, award, or grant. Secondary interests include the desire to aid one’s own professional advancement or the professional advancement of family members, close friends, former thesis advisors / students, current or former (within the past 24 months) collaborators, and members of one’s academic institution. The conflict in a conflict of interest exists whether or not a particular individual is actually influenced by the secondary interest. It exists if the circumstances are reasonably believed to create a risk that decisions may be unduly influenced by secondary interests. The presence of a conflict of interest is independent of the occurrence of impropriety.
Before the review process has begun, committee members must make the chair of the selection committee and the SPA’s President and Secretary-Treasurer aware in writing of any conflict of interest with the applications or materials to be reviewed. The committee member should briefly specify the nature of the conflict of interest and indicate whether or not they believe that they can review the work impartially. Again, the presence of a conflict of interest does not indicate impropriety.
If the President or Secretary-Treasurer are the committee members with the conflict of interest, then an elected SPA board member must be informed of the conflict of interest.
The SPA board members who have received a report of the conflict of interest – President, Secretary-Treasurer or elected board member – will review the report and make a determination on how to proceed. Possibilities include: (1) allowing the committee member to complete the review without limitation, (2) having the committee member recuse themselves from reviewing those applications where a conflict of interest exists but allowing him or her to review all others, and (3) recusing the committee member from the entire selection process and replacing them with an alternative. The committee member must comply with the SPA board’s request.
IV. Relevant committees
This conflict of interest statement and recusal policy shall be in effect across all SPA award and selection committees, including the Condon, Boyer, and Stirling Prize selection committees, all selection committees, and all other ad hoc committees with two exceptions. Membership on any of these committees implies that the individual has read and will act in accordance with this policy. Any member of a committee may be removed by the SPA president if is determined that they are in violation of the policy described here.
The two committees excluded from the conflict of interest and recusal policy described above are the committees responsible for reviewing paper and poster abstracts for acceptance at the AAA Annual Meetings and the SPA Biennial Meetings. These two committees are excluded because the associated risks of abuse are minimal and the likelihood that the committee will experience numerous conflicts of interest is far greater.
Approved by the SPA Board of Directors on December 4, 2014