Carnegie Mellon University

Outside Activities Overview

The University's principal missions are the education of students and the generation and dissemination of knowledge. In pursuit of these missions, or as a natural outgrowth of such activities, faculty, staff, and students often become involved in outside professional activities.

While extramural professional activities are generally encouraged and may benefit CMU by furthering professional development, fostering beneficial collaborations, and advancing CMU’s educational and research enterprise, it is important that such activities do not interfere with an individual’s primary commitment to CMU: to teach, to conduct research, and to meet obligations to students, colleagues, and the University. It is also important that Outside Activities are properly disclosed to CMU in accordance with CMU requirements and all research sponsor policies.

The Outside Activities disclosure process complements and functions in tandem with other University policies, including CMU’s policies on Conflict of Interest and Commitment and Consulting by Faculty.

This web page provides a summary of relevant information.  Additional detail can be found in the OA Guidelines [PDF] and Quick Reference Chart [PDF].

“Investigator” means the Project Director (PD), Principal Investigator (PI), Co-Investigator or any other person, regardless of title or position, who is responsible for the design, conduct or reporting of sponsored research, including research that is funded or proposed for funding. This includes all faculty, staff, and students specifically named in sponsored research funding applications, proposals, or budgets, including in any proposal or budget submitted in SPARCS, and all key personnel who are identified in a progress report or other report submitted by CMU to a funder. If an individual’s role changes during the course of a project or after a proposal has been submitted such that they would then be considered an Investigator.

An “Outside Activity” (OA) is any paid or unpaid activity undertaken by an Investigator for any external entity or person (e.g., not for CMU). Such activities relate to or rely on the Investigator’s professional, scientific, research, or academic expertise. Disclosure is required for all OAs that appear to be related to or rely on an Investigator’s professional, scientific, research, or academic expertise, unless otherwise exempted by the OA Guidelines.

The OAs that CMU Investigators must disclose to CMU through SPARCS include, but are not limited to, the following activities, whether or not they occur during an Investigator’s CMU appointment period (where applicable).:

  • Consulting
  • Academic, professional, scientific, or institutional appointments and positions outside of CMU, whether or not remuneration is received, whether full-time, part-time, or voluntary (adjunct, visiting, honorary, or other), including (for example) any form of employment or similar service, engagement, research oversight, teaching courses, student advisory activities, and visiting scholar or fellowship positions
  • Any activities undertaken for foreign (i.e., non-U.S.) entities or governments, including (for example) grant review or advisory services for foreign entities, or lab work for foreign entities
  • Participation in a foreign talent recruitment program
  • Activity associated with travel paid or reimbursed by or on behalf of a foreign entity including academic and healthcare institutions, governments, companies, or non-profits
  • Advisory role for an external entity, including (for example) on a scientific or medical advisory board, a data and safety monitoring board, or advisory role to a government or public agency (e.g., Systems Engineering and Technical Assistance (SETA) service, or Advisory & Assistance Services (A&AS))
  • Service, position, or role involving a fiduciary responsibility to an external entity, including as a member of the governing board (e.g., Board of Directors), as a corporate officer, as a trustee, or any other executive or management position 
  • Leadership role in a professional society
  • Any research activities undertaken at or on behalf of an outside entity (e.g., for a non-CMU entity) or research activity that is outside of the Investigator’s CMU appointment, including serving as a principal investigator on research not sourced through CMU
  • Editor of journals or other publications
  • Expert witness service 
  • Grant reviewer, unless for a U.S. government agency or U.S. non-profit organization
  • Receipt of prizes or honoraria
  • Gifts or in-kind contributions from external entities or persons made directly to, or delivered directly to, the Investigator in support of the Investigator’s professional, scientific, research, or academic activity. In-kind contributions mean non-cash contributions, i.e., property, goods, or services.

Exceptions and examples are available in the OA Guidelines [PDF].

Investigators must disclose an up-to-date listing  the Investigator’s OAs in SPARCS: i) no later than the time of application for research funding; ii) annually (even if only to acknowledge no change to previous disclosures); iii) within thirty (30) days for a newly acquired OA; iv) when time commitments in an OA undergo a significant change; and v) upon ORIC’s request.

ORIC will review the OA disclosures and may contact the Investigator for additional information. At any time, and at CMU’s discretion, information from OA disclosures may be shared with the relevant department head, dean, or research, finance, or business staff, Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR), Office of General Counsel, and/or their designees.

Each CMU unit (e.g., college, school, department, or institute) may maintain additional, separate local OA disclosure and review processes and procedures, including processes on how to determine whether an OA constitutes a conflict of commitment or a violation of the University’s consulting policy.