Can Conflict of Interest be managed via a COI software solution?

By August 29, 2023 No Comments
COI software representation preventing a conflict

Today, we are going to talk about Conflict of Interest software, also known as COI software, and its applications. A Conflict of Interest (COI) can occur when a researcher has personal interests that might affect their work decisions. Think about researchers who might make money from their study’s results. In this situation, researchers might be torn between what’s good for them and what’s right for their work. This type of split loyalty is problematic, as it could lead to unclear or biased results.

To alleviate this concern, federal sponsors and other funders mandate that institutions have a clear way of handling these conflicts. For example, researchers must divulge any personal interests that could affect their work, along with proper disclosures. There must be open communication about any known or possible conflicts. This level of transparency is beneficial to everyone involved.

Why COI Can Be Challenging

Historically, Conflict of Interest (COI) management was a manual and labor-intensive process. Imagine sifting through stacks of disclosure forms, individually assessing the potential risks, and making a judgment call on each one. How could this be accomplished in a timely manner, with minimal error?

As a short answer, it couldn’t. With the increasing complexity of research and collaborations, the chances of oversight or error became much higher. The urgency to address and manage these conflicts became apparent, especially as research funding and collaborative projects grew in number and scope.

Even today, the COI process is not always easy to manage, especially across large institutions. There are many rules and guidelines to follow, which can differ from sponsor to sponsor, or even within organizations. Additionally, COI often falls into ‘gray areas’ that must be interpreted and deciphered. Knowing this, how is it possible for research administrators to enforce COI rules seamlessly without being overwhelmed?

COI Software Makes It Possible

Thanks to technology, managing Conflict of Interest (COI) has become much easier than it once was. Nowadays, many institutions turn to COI software to help them implement and follow the rules. This allows research administrators to enforce COI protocols at scale, even across hundreds of PIs.

COI software can not only mitigate issues, but it can also help to prevent unwanted outcomes. As the list below demonstrates, the right software can be very powerful. Here are a few ways that software can help manage COI:

  • Automated disclosures: COI software allows employees to disclose their interests (whether annually or by project) and to make regular updates as situations change.
  • Conflict review and approval: COI software facilitates the review process by routing disclosures for review and approval. It also provides transparency into the review process.
  • Centralization of management plans: COI software systems provide a platform for the development of management plans. They also provide a platform for the review and storage of those plans. Having a centralized location for management plans allows for access to the management plan by key stakeholders.
  • Reporting: COI software allows institutions to run reports on submitted disclosures and management plans. These reports provide an easy way to ensure compliance with reporting requirements.
  • Policy enforcement: By integrating conflict of interest policies into the COI software, institutions can make policies visible and easily enforceable.
  • Training and education: COI software can provide education on COI, federal and institutional guidance, and disclosure requirements.

As you can see, beyond just flagging conflicts, the right software can act as a repository of information. This enables administrators to spot patterns over time, so they can refine the COI management process on an ongoing basis. Because mandates and institutional policies evolve, COI is not a permanently fixed process. As such, responsible software developers must continue to adapt and refine their development around the needs of their users. This helps to ensure that COI software stays relevant and useful, even as requirements change.

COI Software: An Essential Tool

COI software, with its robust features, has become a crucial resource for research administrators. It not only mitigates COI issues, but it also offers consistent, clear, and comprehensive insights that were previously difficult to achieve. As a result, small research programs, large universities and statewide higher education institutions can now manage COI effectively.

While technology offers a sophisticated solution, it’s also crucial to recognize the value of human expertise in this equation. As indicated, COI situations are incredibly nuanced. Every disclosure doesn’t necessarily translate to an actionable conflict. This is where the expertise of research administrators comes into play. As good as software can be, it’s the professionals running it who provide the added context, understanding, and judgment that are essential for fair and accurate assessments. COI is a balancing act, and COI software helps research administrators to carry out their duties effectively.

Which COI Software Is The Best?

We welcome you to take a comprehensive look at all COI software on the market. In doing so, we believe you’ll find that Streamlyne’s approach to COI is the best and most sophisticated, yet intuitive. Our COI features reside within Streamlyne Research, our industry-leading eRA software. This means that users of Streamlyne Research have the benefit of a seamless flow of information across proposal development and grant management, from pre-award onward.

Request a custom demo and let us show you our COI software capabilities, and the advantages Streamlyne Research can bring to your institution.