A conflict-of-interest (COI) is any obligation incurred by members of the program committee that might influence, or be construed to have influenced, their decision. Because it is both an internal matter – we want each PC member to be making an impartial judgment – and an external one – we do not want anyone to think that PC members might have been influenced in their decision, the decision of what constitutes a COI cannot be left entirely to each individual.
This policy describes situations that constitute a definite COI (real or perceived); PC members are responsible for declaring such conflicts immediately (by using EasyChair to declare themselves in conflict – no reason need be given). In addition, PC members are encouraged to declare a COI in situations not listed below, but in which they feel it might be difficult for them to remain impartial. Finally, PC chairs are to take COIs even more seriously, if possible, than other PC members, as they have final say over the disposition of each submission.
You have a COI with:
Your PhD and postdoc advisor(s), your PhD students, and your postdocs. This conflict is lifelong “until death (or retirement) do us part”.
With members of your family, your partner and partner’s family, and other love interests. However, you do not automatically inherit their own COIs.
- With close personal friends. Here again, you do not automatically inherit your close friends’ COIs.
- With anyone whom you have reason to believe may be somewhat hostile to you and with anyone towards whom you are somewhat hostile; also with anyone with whom you are currently in competition for a position.
- With anyone at your current institution or company, at an institution or company where you worked (as a salaried employee) at some point in the last 4 years, or at an institution or company where you are applying for a position.
- With anyone at an institution or company that has paid you some type of wages (e.g., consulting fees, sabbatical supplementary salary, etc.) over the last 4 years or that is currently retaining you as a consultant or in another paid capacity. (Honoraria for giving a research talk do not count, nor do in-kind benefits such as paid transportation and accommodations for visitors.)
- With any current research collaborator (with whom you have an ongoing project), any prospective collaborator (with whom you are writing a research proposal, for instance), and with anyone with whom you have collaborated in the last 4 years.
These constitute the minimum collection of COIs. You may have additional COIs that you are best placed to evaluate in the light of the list above and keeping in mind that the question should be, not just “can I remain impartial?” (actual COI), but also “Will others agree that my impartiality would not be compromised?” (perceived COI).
On the other hand you do not automatically have a COI just because
- you are working on the same problem as the authors
- you had dinner with some of the authors at last year’s conference (i.e., before you were invited to serve on this year’s PC) and they paid for the meal
- you both served this year on the same panel or on the PC of another conference
- your high-school sweetheart is married to one of the authors
- you recently visited the authors’ institution, gave a talk, and met with some people in their group (and perhaps even received an academic honorarium for your talk)
- you both applied for the same job last year (but that search is over)
- you have (or had) a common collaborator over the last 4 years, but on different projects
- you would rather not socialize with the authors
- you got your PhD from the same lab as one of the authors 10 years ago
If you have doubts, please discuss the issue with the PC chair or the Steering Committee.