Outside Professional Activities and Financial Interests


Definition of Key Terms

Academic Year

The Academic Year is defined at HKS as September 1 – May 31.  The standard reporting period for internal confidential disclosure at HKS is the Calendar Year.  Therefore, internal confidential disclosures will typically straddle and include 2 different Academic Years: January 1 – May 31, and September 1 – December 31.


“Equity” means stock, stock options, warrants or other ownership interest. You are not required to disclose equity held in diversified financial holdings such as mutual funds.

Family Member

“Family member” means spouse and dependent children. So far as the financial interests of family members bear upon the application of the University policy on financial conflicts of interest, a faculty member must affirmatively make inquiry into, and shall be presumed to know of, the financial interests of family members as herein defined.

Fiduciary or Management Role

“Fiduciary or management role” means service as an officer, director or service on an advisory board (including scientific advisory boards), whether paid or unpaid. Investigators may need prior approval from the Dean before assuming such responsibilities. “Fiduciary or management role” does not mean service on an editorial board. In their implementation plans, schools may extend this requirement to include service on the board or advisory panel of a not for profit entity.

Institutional Responsibilities

“Institutional responsibilities” means an individual’s professional responsibilities on behalf of Harvard. Such responsibilities include, but are not limited to: research, research consultation, teaching, general and scholarly publications and pubic presentations, professional practice, institutional committee memberships, and service on committees or panels such as research ethics committees (e.g. Institutional Review Boards) and other bodies monitoring the conduct of research.

Internal Confidential Disclosure

“Internal confidential disclosure” as opposed to public disclosure, means the provision by individuals of information about their outside professional activities and financial interests related to their institutional responsibilities internally to institutional officials and bodies designated in their school’s implementation plan.


“Investigator” means the Project Director or Principal Investigator and any other person, regardless of title or position, who is responsible for the design, conduct, or reporting of research.  “Investigator” for purposes of compliance with the conflict of interest regulations of the Public Health Services is broader than the class of faculty and holders of teaching appointments under the University policy.

For PHS purposes, “investigator” is “the Project Director/Principal Investigator and any other person, regardless of title or position, who is responsible for the design, conduct, or reporting of research funded by the PHS, or proposed for such funding, including persons who are sub-grantees, contractors, collaborators, or consultants. “  Therefore, in order to comply with PHS regulations, it may be necessary, in specific grants, for post-doctoral candidates, fellows and even graduate students, to complete internal disclosures under the University policy. See 42 C.F.R. 50.602 (definition of “investigator”).

Outside Professional Activities

All outside professional activities, whether compensated or not, must be included in internal confidential disclosures.  For instance, private consulting, membership on a board of directors or advisory board (including any fiduciary or managerial role), paid speaking engagements, research or teaching conducted on behalf of or in a program outside of Harvard University.  Note: If any related private consulting or speaking engagements were managed by a 3rd party (e.g., a consulting/law firm or professional speakers’ bureau), a complete list of the specific ‘end users’ of those  services is required: the individual consulting clients and/or specific audiences addressed. 

Public Disclosure

HKS faculty member are expected to publicly disclose those related outside professional activities and financial interests identified in the annual internal confidential disclosure process (i.e., where the outside individual or organization has a financial, ideological, and/or political stake in the faculty member’s academic work), in cases where:

  • total compensation exceeds $5,000 during the preceding 12 months
  • the faculty member has equity or other financial interests exceeding $5,000 in a publicly traded company
  • the faculty member has an equity interest or entitlement to financial interest in a non-publicly traded for-profit company
  • the faculty member holds a position as an officer, board member or director of any non-profit organization, advocacy organization or for-profit entity
  • any other relevant financial compensation, research funding, or financial interest of the faculty member or family member (spouse or dependent children). 

Note that these are the minimum standards.  Many faculty members choose to publicly disclose all of their outside professional activities, including those that do not meet the $5K threshold as well as pro bono work, in order to provide a balanced picture of their outside activity portfolio.

Related Outside Entity

School Implementation Plans may define “related outside entity” beyond the definition provided below. You should consult your school’s Plan carefully.

“Related outside entity” means an entity with which a member of the faculty has an outside professional engagement and/or significant financial interest that may, or may reasonably appear to an outside observer, to influence the discharge of teaching, research, or other University-related responsibilities. In determining relatedness, individuals should employ a standard of common sense, and when in doubt, disclose.

HKS has adopted a broad “relatedness” standard for the purposes of internal confidential disclosure.  That standard includes engagement with any individual, group, or organization that has a financial, ideological, or political stake related to the academic activities of that faculty member.

Examples of entities that might be related are those:

  1. whose products, services, political or other public activities are related to the areas of a faculty member’s or an investigator’s teaching or research;
  2. that fund research in a faculty member’s or an investigator’s area of academic interest;
  3. that are direct or indirect consumers of public policy analysis or recommendations from HKS faculty members, including in the public, private, and non-profit sectors;
  4. that own or have rights to develop intellectual property that is the subject of research in which a faculty member or an investigator participates;
  5. that compete commercially with such an entity as described in (4);
  6. that make or propose to make a gift to the University that would support a faculty member’s or an investigator’s teaching or research activities;
  7. that furnish products or services to the University through a contractual process in which a faculty member or an investigator participates in any way;
  8. that propose to enter a licensing agreement with the University with respect to technology invented by the faculty member or investigator;
  9. that act as a legal or de facto agent for any outside entity engaged in any of the above activities.
Related Party Transactions

Incoming or outgoing funds that are transferred in any form (loan, grant, gift, purchased services, etc.) between a HKS faculty member (or an immediate family member) and any outside organization owned or controlled by any member of HKS management, staff, faculty, students, or their families, or between the faculty member and any of those people as individuals. This might include, for example, receiving a grant from or subcontracting to an organization where HKS personnel serve on a Board of Directors or in another leadership or fiduciary capacity.

Significant Financial Interest

School Implementation Plans may define “significant financial interest” beyond the definition provided below. You should consult your school’s Plan carefully.

 “Significant Financial Interest” includes, but is not limited to, (1) financial compensation, including travel, from consulting, employment, managerial, and fiduciary relationships that, when aggregated over the preceding twelve months, exceed $5,000; (2) equity and other financial interests above $5,000; (3) equity interests of any amount, or entitlement to the same, in a non-publicly traded, for-profit, entity; and (4) intellectual property rights and interests (e.g. patents, copyrights), upon receipt of income related to such rights and interests. “Financial compensation” does not include, for example, interests of any amount in diversified financial holdings, or royalties or other remuneration paid by Harvard.


“Students” includes degree program students, post-doctoral fellows, and other trainees.

Transparent Engagement 

The HKS implementation of the University policy requires internal confidential disclosure of all outside professional activities (including the number of Academic Year days devoted to these activities), identification of potential conflicts of interest, and the management of potential conflicts. The plan calls for public disclosure of sources of support or other outside professional activities related to a faculty member’s academic responsibilities, and in rare cases, more comprehensive management. The goal at a professional school of public policy is to balance the value of involvement with the real world actors the School seeks to understand, the legitimate desire of the public for transparency, and the autonomy and privacy interests of individual faculty. A simple summary of our goal is “transparent engagement.” More details are available here.