The CITF’s management of conflict of interest
The CITF has developed rigorous and transparent processes at all levels of operation, from the identification of priority research topics to the implementation of proposal evaluation and decision-making procedures for applications submitted for funding. The CITF is especially attentive to issues related to COI, particularly regarding the assessment of applications for funding, a process which was carefully managed by the EC.
Prior to January 1, 2023, when deciding on whether to award funding to a researcher and a project, COI was managed in the following distinct ways:
COI is managed in the following distinct ways:
- Executive Committee: All award investment decisions were made at the EC level. To hold a seat on the EC, it was therefore a requirement, to preserve neutrality, that EC members could not have previously applied for or held CITF funds and could not intend to apply for or hold CITF funds.
- COI declarations: All non-ex officio members of the EC, Leadership Group (LG), and Working Parties (WPs), as well as all executive members of the Secretariat, had to complete a COI declaration form on an annual basis, found on the CITF website (see below). At each EC, LG and WP meeting, the designated Chair asked members to provide updates to their forms.
- External reviewers: At the level of proposal review, all candidate external reviewers for studies submitted to the CITF for funding were asked to declare any COI. The CITF adopted COI definitions for the review process drawn from Federal Research Funding Organizations Alternative reviewers were selected when a COI was identified. Reviewers used a standard form that included pre-determined evaluation criteria to guide the assessment of proposals and ensure transparency.
- Committee meetings/recusals and abstentions: In all formal CITF committee meetings, the meeting Chair invited individual members to disclose COIs (direct or indirect) at the start of the session and again before each proposed study was discussed or evaluated. The COIs disclosed were recorded by the CITF Secretariat in formal minutes. Declarations were assessed and addressed by the meeting Chair. As meetings occurred virtually, participants with direct conflicts were recused to an electronic waiting room or abstained from participation until the project’s evaluation, discussion, and award recommendations concluded. Participants with indirect COIs could be instructed to abstain from participation at the discretion of the Chair. In some cases, members could choose to formally abstain or recuse themselves. Direct COIs raised for each funding decision made by the EC are published below.
Going forward, as of January 1st 2023 under the joint governance structure, the procedure to evaluate and issue decisions on funding will continue to follow similar guidelines.
Members of CITF advisory and decision-making bodies and the CITF Secretariat may have access to novel processes or ideas as well as confidential information about applicants and their proposals for contracts or grants. Members are accordingly expected to treat deliberations and decisions as confidential until announced publicly. In particular, there should be no advance notice given regarding funding competitions, early reports of funding decisions, or disclosure of strategic deliberations by the EC, CITF advisory bodies, and Secretariat.