3.11 External and Internal Activities - Faculty Handbook   



This section of the Faculty Handbook discusses acceptable external and internal activities for faculty members.

Effective Date: 08/15/2023


Review/Revised Date: 08/15/2023


Category: Faculty Affairs


Policy Owner: Faculty Senate

Policy Contact: Faculty Policy and Procedures Committee




3.11 External and Internal Activities
3.11.1 External Activities
3.11.2 Internal Activities
3.11.3 Conflicts of Commitment and Conflicts of Interest

3.11 External and Internal Activities

3.11.1 External Activities

UAB recognizes outstanding contributions and achievement by its faculty not only by appropriate compensation adjustments and promotion but also by permitting faculty members’ substantial freedom in arranging their academic lives. Although teaching, research, and service are the primary functions of UAB faculty, UAB recognizes the desirability of making available the services of the many highly trained specialists on its faculty to business, industry, government, professional societies, or other appropriate groups. This is consistent with a fundamental mission pillar of UAB (Section 1.3) which encourages community engagement partnerships through external entrepreneurial activities to advance economic prosperity and societal impact. The involvement of UAB faculty in providing external services of a professional nature can, under appropriate circumstances and with prior approval, occur simultaneously with a faculty member’s other academic duties and contributes significantly to the public welfare, offers opportunities for professional challenge and growth, brings recognition to the institution, and contributes to the improvement of UAB’s teaching, research, and service programs. Therefore, UAB encourages members of its faculty to participate in extramural activities which are consistent with their primary responsibilities to the institution once potential conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment are carefully evaluated and managed.

Full-time faculty members may, with the approvals described below, provide professional services to outside organizations to furnish services as a consultant provided such activity (a) does not interfere with the performance of other responsibilities as a faculty member, (b) is limited in time, (c) is compatible with the interests of UAB as a public academic institution, and (d) does not require significant use of UAB resources or facilities. Faculty activities which use significant UAB time or UAB resources (for example, laboratories, studios, equipment, supplies, databases, students, or staff paid by UAB) should be handled as UAB grants or contracts. Regular external teaching or research activities represent a conflict of commitment, and full-time faculty members may not hold regular faculty appointments at other institutions, except in connection with a joint program entered into between UAB and another institution, or similar arrangement as described in the UAB Enterprise Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment Policy. Contingent faculty appointments (e.g., adjunct) at another institution are external activities and are managed annually through a Request for an External Activity Approval form. It is possible to have a conflict of interest or commitment outside of normal working hours, during periods of non-service (e.g., summer term for faculty having a 9-month appointment, weekends, etc.), or during leave of any type.

Because of the great variation in the nature of faculty expertise and external activities, it is difficult to establish specific rules or time allocations for external consulting activities that draw upon the knowledge and skill of a faculty member's professional duties at UAB. It is the responsibility of the faculty member, Department Chair, and Dean to exercise judicious oversight and control of external activities so that no UAB functions or policies are neglected. As set forth in HR Policy 128, full-time faculty are limited to 20 (twenty) typical working days per year of approved external activities. This limit does not apply to periods of vacation, university or personal holidays, or designated time-off for faculty with nine-month appointments (Section 4.1). Written prior approval to participate in any external activities, except those cases of exempted professional public service activities identified below, shall be obtained from the Dean through the appropriate Department Chair using the Request for External Activity Approval Form. Request for leave for external activities is a separate process and is covered in Section 4.5.7.

Faculty who are denied approval for external activities should seek resolution directly through their respective department chair or dean, See Appendix F.

External activities that draw upon the knowledge and skill of a faculty member and are considered professional public service activities do not have to be reported or approved, whether compensated or not. These exempted external activities include: 
  1. Professional studies, seminars, lectures, service on advisory committees, participation on boards of directors, participation in manuscript review, grant/contract review, or academic program review for US federal, state, or local government agencies, institutions of higher education, academic teaching hospitals, medical centers or research institutes that are affiliated with an institution of higher education
  2. Professional studies, seminars, lectures, service on advisory committees, participation on boards of directors, or participation in manuscript review, grant/contract review, or academic program review for nonprofit/philanthropic entities, professional societies, or professional associations, that are not affiliates of or affiliated with industry or other for profit entities;
  3. Seminars, presentations, performances, or board service for civic groups; and
  4. Participation on boards of directors with UAB Enterprise affiliated entities

Although no prior activity approval is required, a faculty member who is an investigator (responsible for the design, conduct, or reporting of proposed or active research) is required to disclose financial interest exceeding $5,000 acquired from any one entity in the previous 12 months for their participation in any professional public service activities listed in numbers 2) and 3) above.

All other external activities which draw upon the knowledge and skill of a faculty member require prior approval. Although examples in and of themselves require interpretation and judgment, a sample of such compensated activities usually will include (a) one-time or multiple visits to a business for the purposes of offering advice and counsel, (b) carrying out investigations or studies which are not UAB grants or contracts, (c) a series of non-UAB lectures or performances for commercial entities, (d) serving as an expert witness, or (e) rendering specific professional services other than those through a UAB-affiliated professional services fund. See Appendix G for guidance regarding internal, external, and professional public service activity approvals and the associated leave requests.

Faculty also are responsible for ensuring that external activities are conducted in accordance with UAB Enterprise Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment Policy, as well as policies on disclosure of discoveries and inventions, patents, and computer software. When participating in external activities other than professional public service activities, the faculty member should not use the name of the University of Alabama at Birmingham to imply that UAB is sponsoring the activity or the project.

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3.11.2 Internal Activities

Internal activities performed by faculty members for which there is additional compensation are to be limited in time and must receive prior approval on a project-by-project basis. Faculty may be permitted to perform internal activities within UAB when:
  1. The individual has specialized training or knowledge essential to the programs; and
  2. The performance of these duties is such that it is above and beyond the commitments associated with the faculty appointment.

Examples of internal activities within UAB by which additional compensation may be paid to the faculty member include special lectures, short courses, sponsored research projects, and continuing education projects.

Internal activities for UAB-administered projects financed by non-UAB sources may or may not be permitted in accordance with the policy of the sponsoring source. If permitted by the sponsor, approval within UAB must be obtained as indicated below. In cases in which the sponsor's policy is unclear or unknown, clarification should be obtained from the UAB Office of Sponsored Programs.

Rates of payment for internal activities or special services are to be determined on the basis of the individual's salary or evidence that the fee is appropriate considering the qualifications of the consultant, normal charges, and the nature of the services to be provided and should be approved by the appropriate administrator(s). Work for special fees should be performed so as not to interfere with academic or other UAB responsibilities. Such fees are considered income and, as such, are paid and reported according to stipulations of the Personal Services Approval and Payment Policy “UAB Employee" policy.

The appropriate Department Chair or Dean of the faculty or staff performing the internal activity and Department Chair or Dean of the unit requesting the service must give their approval of these internal activities. If the internal activity is across school lines, approval by the Provost also is required. Internal activities by UAB faculty or staff under funds obtained from UAB grants or contracts or funds from any extramural source additionally requires the approval of the Provost. All such approvals must be obtained before a commitment is made.

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3.11.3 Conflicts of Commitment and Conflicts of Interest

A conflict of commitment exists when a faculty member's engagement in external or internal activities compromises the ability to carry out their primary obligations and commitments to UAB. A conflict of interest exists when a faculty member's financial, professional, or personal interests affect, or have the appearance of affecting, judgment in exercising a duty or responsibility owed to UAB.

Expeditious disclosure and resolution of such conflicts or potential conflicts is in the best interest of all involved. Actual or potential conflicts of commitment or interest must be disclosed using the electronic process for Faculty/Staff External Activities/COI disclosure.  When a potential or actual conflict of commitment/interest arises, it is expected that the faculty member, with the assistance of the Department Chair or Dean, and others as necessary, will act to manage the potential or actual conflict.

The use or orientation of any faculty effort at UAB to serve the needs of an individual, group, firm, corporation, or other organization or entity without proper disclosure of such use or orientation to a sponsoring agency and to UAB constitutes a serious breach of confidence. Furthermore, there should be no purchase by a UAB employee of any major equipment, instruments, materials, services, and other items for use in UAB faculty efforts from a corporation, company, firm, or organization in which the employee has a pecuniary interest without obtaining approval by UAB in advance.

Disclosure of conflicts of interest/commitment involving extramural funding is the responsibility of the faculty member or employee and must be done prior to, or as a part of, the UAB grant and contract application process. All individuals who are "investigators" are required to disclose significant financial interests (1) which reasonably would appear to be related to research for which funding from any source is sought and (2) in any and all entities whose financial interests reasonably would appear to be affected by the research. The term "investigator" includes any person who is responsible for the design, conduct, or reporting of extramurally funded research or educational activity. The term includes principal investigators, project directors, co-principal investigators, co-project directors, and other faculty investigators and faculty project personnel. The term also may include staff, trainees, students, administrators, and other collaborators who have such responsibilities.

Many conflicts of commitment/interest situations may arise, both obvious and subtle, in such variety that they cannot be presented adequately in this document. The UAB Enterprise Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment Policy provides greater insight into these important issues, as well as Board Rule 106.2 and the Senior administrators shall disclose any potential conflict of interest as described in the UA System Board Rule 106.

Questions related to the UAB Enterprise Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment Policy should be directed to the University Compliance Office.

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