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Outside Consulting, Research and Outside Employment

Faculty (tenured/tenure-track faculty, instructors, research faculty, clinical faculty, etc.) and administrative professional employees (Supportive Professional Staff) who wish to engage in outside consulting, research (OCR) or outside employment (OE) activities must comply with the University Faculty Research and Consulting Act of 1969 and the Board of Trustees Regulations Section II. B. 2. on Outside Employment by completing and submitting a separate Outside Consulting, Research or Other Types of Outside Employment (OCR/OE) Request Form for each outside entity for each fiscal year and obtain prior approval from their department chair/unit head/supervisor before engaging in activities with that outside entity.

Listed below are answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) regarding Outside Consulting, Research and/or Outside Employment. These answers are meant to provide additional clarifications of the OCR/OE request and approval process and should not be considered as substitutes for State of Illinois statutes and/or NIU Board of Trustees' Regulations. Since the NIU Board of Trustees' Regulations on Outside Employment is more comprehensive than the State of Illinois statute, covered NIU employees must comply with NIU Board of Trustees' Regulations. If answers to your questions are not found in these FAQ, please contact your supervisor, college dean/division head or the Office of the Provost at provost@niu.edu.

General Information

What types of activities are covered by NIU OCR/OE reporting requirements?

All outside activities are covered including consulting, research, instruction, and self-employment, regardless of employer or organization where the activity will take place.

Who can I contact if I have questions about the OCR/OE request form or the approval process?

Start with your supervisor first as he or she may know the answer from reviewing and approving OCR/OE requests from others in your department/unit. Then if you still have questions, please feel free to contact your college dean/division head and then the Office of the Provost at provost@niu.edu.

What is the difference between OCR and OE?

OCR pertains to State of Illinois’ statute on outside consulting and research and OE pertains to NIU Board of Trustees’ regulation on outside employment. The 110 ILCS 100/1et seq. statutes on outside consulting and research do not pertain to research or consultation for federal, state or local governments. The university's chief legal officer has determined this legislation is not applicable to non-faculty or non-administrative employees or to any faculty or administrative employees whose appointments are less than full-time. The legislation does not require any report of compensation a faculty member or administrative employee may receive for performing private outside services.

However, the Board of Trustees’ regulations Section II. Subsection B. 2 on outside employment is much more comprehensive than the 110 ILCS 100/1et seq. statutes and requires formal approval of all types of outside employment including all outside consulting and research activities including those exempt by the 110 ILCS 100/1 et seq. statutes to ensure those outside activities do not encroach upon the employee's primary responsibilities and obligation to the university.

Is it allowable to be engaged in more than one OCR/OE activity at the same time?

Yes, provided each request complies with the policies and has been approved by your supervisor before the start date of the activities, and has been reviewed and processed by the college dean/division head, and the Office of the Provost.

Is there a limit to the number of days allowed for OCR/OE activities?

Yes. In order to avoid conflict of commitment, and per the university’s Academic Policies and Procedures, faculty and administrative employees are allowed to participate in outside activities for up to a maximum of one day per week (i.e., 40 days per academic year for those on academic-year appointments). As a reminder, all OCR/OE activities must be approved before employees engage in such activities.

What are the Outside Consulting, Research (OCR) or Other Types of Outside Employment (OE) policies and what is allowed by them?

As mentioned in the Academic Policies and Procedures Section 1, Item 10. 2.a. “Interaction (e.g., research or consulting) between employees and outside enterprises for reasonable periods of time (and which may or may not provide personal remuneration) is advantageous when the relationship enhances one's professional skills or entails a public service activity. Such relationships are encouraged as long as they are consistent with the missions of the university.”

Based on the positive recommendation of the administrator of the employee's unit, the university has generally allowed full-time instructional staff members up to one day per week (i.e., 40 days per appointment year for those on academic-year appointments) for appropriate outside activities, subject to the specific needs of that person's administrative unit. Such time for non-University activities is not an automatic entitlement of either an instructional or staff employee but requires prior approval from the employee's applicable supervisor, dean/division head and the Office of the Provost. Release time is not normally available for an activity or business which is personal in nature or which is not related or does not contribute to the advancement of the employee's professional skills, or does not provide an opportunity for professional growth that will benefit the university and the public's interests. Released time from University assignment for outside activities of instructional staff members with part-time appointments is not normally available unless an exception is made by the Office of the Provost. For purposes of work time reporting and accountability under the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act, authorized released time shall be considered work-related unless the authorization specifies the utilization of unpaid leave or the applicability of available vacation benefits (if any).

NIU’s policy regarding outside consulting and research and outside employment applies to all full-time faculty and administrative staff and those faculty and administrative staff on less than full-time appointment but anticipate potential or perceived conflicts of interest with the planned outside activity, and is in accordance with the State of Illinois University Faculty Research and Consulting Act (110 ILCS 100/1 et seq) and the regulations of the NIU Board of Trustees (Section II, B.2). The policy is intended to ensure that all faculty and administrative staff who engage in outside consulting, research or other forms of outside employment with any non-state and/or non-federal government agency are in compliance with the above-mentioned State Act and Board of Trustees’ regulations.

Relevant portions of the State Act with regard to outside consulting and research are listed below. The full Act can be viewed at the Illinois General Assembly website following website (110 ILCS 100/1) (from Ch. 144, par. 216) Sec. 1. No full time member of the faculty of any State-supported institution of higher learning may undertake, contract for or accept anything of value in return for research or consulting services for any person other than that institution on whose faculty he serves unless (a) he has the prior written approval of the President of that institution or a designee of such President, to perform the outside research or consulting services, such request to contain an estimate of the amount of time which will be involved and (b) he submits to the President of that institution or such designee, annually, a statement of the amount of actual time he has spent on such outside research or consulting services. (Source: P.A. 76-1343.)

(110 ILCS 100/2) (from Ch. 144, par. 217)
Sec 2. For the purposes of this Act,

(a) "State-supported institution of higher learning" includes the University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University, Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois University, Governors State University, Illinois State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Western Illinois University and all public community colleges; and (b) "Contract" includes any grant made by any person (individual or corporate), partnership, foundation or association, other than federal, State or local governments, for the performance of research or consulting services by a member of the faculty of a State-supported institution of higher learning. The term does not include a scholarship or grant for study or research required for a graduate degree or the improvement of existing skills without any services to be rendered for the grantor or donor of such a scholarship or grant. (Source: P.A. 89-4, eff. 1-1-96.) Relevant portions of the Board of Trustees’ regulation with regard to outside employment are listed below. The full guidelines can be viewed at the Board of Trustees Regulations website

II. B.2. Outside Employment
Faculty and administrative employees whose primary positions are with the Board of Trustees normally shall not be employed under any employment or regular agreements or contracts for more than normal full-time employment from the State of Illinois and/or university funds.

Exceptions may be granted in the case of faculty teaching extension or noncredit courses or other circumstances when duties are performed in addition to their regular assignments. Exceptions may be made upon advance approval of the president or a designee.

Faculty must have prior written approval of the president or a designee, to perform research or provide consulting services to nongovernmental agencies. (University Faculty Research and Consulting Act, 110 ILCS 100/0.01 et seq., effective September 16, 1969.)

Employment or services provided outside of those activities supported by the State of Illinois and/or university funds should not encroach upon the employee's primary responsibilities and obligation to the employer.

The president or a designee shall authorize in writing those persons designated to approve outside employment. A copy of the written authorization shall be maintained by the President's Office.


Disclosure and Approval

Can I begin an outside consulting and research and/or outside employment activity prior to approval?

No, faculty and administrative employees must receive approval prior to commencement of any OCR/OE activity.

If my OCR/OE request is not approved by my chair/director/unit head, can I appeal that action?

If your OCR/OE request is not approved by your supervisor then there is no process for appealing that action. You can, however, discuss it with your supervisor and resolve any concerns that might have led to the denial of your request.

Who is required to complete and submit these request forms?

All faculty (tenured/tenure-track faculty, instructors, research faculty, clinical faculty, etc.) and administrative employees (Supportive Professional Staff) are required to obtain appropriate approval prior to engaging in any and all outside consulting and/or research or outside employment activities.

As a newly-hired employee, how do I disclose any OCR/OE activities that I am engaged in at the start of my employment at NIU?

You should disclose any on-going OCR/OE activities by completing and submitting the request form within the first 10 work days of the start of your employment at NIU and seek approval.

Do I have to complete and submit the request form even if the OCR or OE activity is non-compensatory in nature or takes place during non-working hours or during weekends?

Yes, submission of OCR/OE request is required even if you are not compensated for the activity or if it takes place during non-working hours or during weekends. This is to ensure there are no conflicts of interest related to the activity.

What are some of the key issues to ensure prompt review of the OCR/OE request form?

Always download and use the latest version of the request form instead of using an old or obsolete request form. Fill in all required fields of the form including details about the outside activity and the organization/employer where the outside activity will take place. Please do not use abbreviations that are not commonly known and the approvers may not know. Submit the completed form to your supervisor well before the start date of the planned outside activity so that your supervisor can review it before the start date of the activity and approve it, if appropriate, or any potential concerns or conflicts of interest can be discussed, resolved, and/or managed before the start date.

What is the purpose of the OCR and OE request form?

The purpose of the request form is to provide faculty and supportive professional staff with a means by which to disclose intent and receive approval to engage in outside consulting and research and/or outside employment with non-state and/or non-federal agencies, as required by the State of Illinois statute or with any outside entity as required by the NIU Board of Trustees’ regulations. The form is meant to provide a mechanism by which perceived or potential conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment associated with any outside consulting and research and outside employment activities can be identified, resolved or managed so as to protect the integrity of the university, its employees and resources. The form is also used for documenting approved requests and for auditing purposes as the requests and reports annually audited by external auditors to ensure NIU is in compliance.

How should I submit the OCR/OE request form for approval and how will I know if the request is approved?

You can submit the completed OCR/OE request form to your supervisor as a hardcopy with your signature and date, or you can submit it electronically as an email attachment of the completed and digitally-signed PDF form. If submitted as an email attachment, the email should clearly show it originated in your email account and the date and time stamp of the email.

After submitting your request, check if it is approved by your supervisor. After your request is approved by your supervisor, it will be forwarded to the college dean/division head and then the Office of the Provost for further review and documentation, and the Office of the Provost will email you a copy of the approved request.

When should the request be completed and submitted and how often?

Request forms should be completed and submitted to employee’s department/school/unit chair/director/unit head, allowing sufficient time for approval to be granted prior to the commencement of the OCR/OE activity.


Reporting and Responsibility

Am I required to submit a final report even if I did not actually spend any time on the approved outside activity or the activity did not occur?

Yes. You must report the number of hours spent on the activity, even if the number is zero. This is for auditing purposes as well as for keeping track of the actual number of days of OCR/OE activities that you engaged in during a fiscal year.

What do I have to report after completing an approved OCR or OE activity?

At the conclusion of your previously-approved OCR/OE activity, you must report using the same form which was used to request and receive approval for the activity, the total number of days spent on the activity during the fiscal year. The form will be sent back to you at the end of the fiscal year by the Office of the Provost and you can enter in it the number of days spent on the approved activity and return it back to the Office of the Provost.

What are the responsibilities of the requesting employee’s supervisors at the department/unit and college/division levels?

The department/unit supervisor and the college dean/division head are responsible for reviewing the request and ensuring that a conflict (time commitment, duration, interest, disclosure, etc.) does not exist, and deciding if the request should be approved or not based on a variety of other considerations including other approved overload and outside activities. If there is a potential or perceived conflict of interest with the proposed outside activity or any exceptions have to be made then you should work with the department/unit supervisor to disclose the conflict of interest and develop a conflict resolution/management plan for the request to be considered.

After approving a request the department/unit supervisor must promptly forward the request to the college dean/division head for review and approval, and who in turn must promptly forward it to the Office of the Provost for further review and recording the request.


Contractual Commitment

Do I have to complete the OCR/OE request form if I am not on full-time contract at NIU during the time of the planned outside activity?

Yes, if there could be potential or perceived conflicts of interest, time commitment or disclosure concerns in such activities then it is important to consult with your chair/director/unit head and discuss and manage such issues, and seek approval if necessary.

Do I have to complete the OCR/OE request form if the outside activity will begin and/or end during a time when I am not on contract at NIU but I am a continuing employee?

Yes. As you are a continuing employee there could still be potential or perceived conflicts of interest in such activities during the time when you are not on contract at NIU and it is important to consult with your chair/director/unit head and discuss and manage such issues, and seek approval if necessary.

Can I request approval for an OCR or OE activity when I am on leave or on sabbatical?

No. Participating in outside consulting and/or research or holding outside employment while on an approved leave or sabbatical is generally a violation of leave and sabbatical policies.

Do I have to complete the OCR/OE request form even for a self-employment activity?

Yes. Self-employment activities can also result in conflicts of interest or conflicts of commitment and it is important to disclose and seek prior approval for such activities.


Federal, State and University Resources

Do I have to complete and submit the request even if the activity is for a federal, state or local government agency?

Yes, because the Board of Trustees’ regulations on outside employment is much more comprehensive than the State of Illinois’ statutes on outside consulting and research, and the same request form is used for OCR and OE to simplify the request process and ensure any conflicts of interest can be disclosed and resolved or managed before the activity can be approved.

Can I involve NIU students or use university resources in my OCR or OE activities?

Yes, but only if approval is granted to involve students or use university resources before the start date of the activity and there is legitimate benefit to NIU students and the university. Such involvement should be disclosed at the time of the request and be approved by your supervisor and others who may provide the necessary resources at NIU.


Conflict Review and Management

How should a potential or perceived conflict of interest be handled?

It should be noted first that a potential or perceived conflict of interest or conflict commitment may not always be a problem but what is important is proper disclosure, review and resolution or management of that conflict so that you and the university are protected. If you recognize a potential or a perceived conflict with your proposed outside consulting and research or outside employment activity in relations to OCR/OE policies, discuss it with your chair/director/unit head and develop a conflict resolution/management plan for the conflicts or exceptions that may be needed. The plan should be approved by your supervisor and must be attached to your OCR/OE request form and forwarded to the appropriate college dean or division vice president.

What types of conflicts of interest can be encountered with OCR and OE activities?

The general types of conflicts of interest include (but not limited to) the following:

  1. Financial conflict of interest: when an employee has a financial interest or a fiduciary role with the outside entity that may present a conflict of interest with the employee’s university responsibilities. Such relationships may also include uncompensated activities.
  2. Conflict of commitment: when outside activities interfere and/or diminish adequacy of performance of the employee’s responsibilities to his or her unit, students or the university. Too many off-load activities such as multiple OCR or OE activities along with overload teaching and project activities can also result in conflict of commitment.
  3. Conflict of opportunity: when an employee diverts for personal gain activities or projects to outside enterprises, which could have reasonably advanced the university’s mission if those opportunities had come to the university.
  4.  Conflict of rights: when an employee shares, transfers or uses university’s intellectual property rights with outside enterprises when doing so could be detrimental to the university.
  5. Use of university facilities and resources: use of university’s facilities and resources, not typically available to the general public, without prior approval for outside employment activities.
  6. Involvement of students and trainees: is not allowed in an employee’s outside activities unless it can be demonstrated such participation affords a substantial educational benefit for the students and trainees, and potential conflicts are managed appropriately.
  7. Teaching/instructional conflict: when an employee is a paid instructor/developer for credit-bearing college/university course(s) at an institution other than the employee’s university, thus aiding the competition and undermining NIU.