ASHG is committed to maintaining a high standard of professional integrity in fostering scientific, clinical, and educational work in human genetics and genomics. It is essential that both its members and the public recognize and have confidence in this commitment. Thus, even the appearance of a conflict of interest should be avoided. In order to maintain the confidence of the public and its members, the ASHG has adopted this conflict of interest and disclosure policy.
ASHG depends upon voluntary service of its members to achieve its goals. It is recognized that ASHG members have personal, business, and professional interests, some of which may have the potential to create real or perceived conflicts with the best interests of ASHG. ASHG does not necessarily view the existence of these interests as an impediment to participation in ASHG activities, but it does require that they be disclosed.
Duty To Disclose
- To whom applicable: It is the policy of ASHG that the conduct of officers, directors, the editor of The American Journal of Human Genetics, committee members, the Executive Director, and all other persons acting as its representatives should be at all times in the best interests of ASHG, its members, and the general public. In performing their duties, ASHG representatives should not be influenced by desire for personal gain. Accordingly, ASHG has adopted rules to guide disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and the society’s response thereto that shall apply to those who agree to serve ASHG in any official capacity.
- Distribution and implementation of the policy: This policy has been in effect since January 1, 1994 and modified as necessary in 2011. A full copy thereof shall be distributed to all committee members of ASHG within 60 days of the policy’s effective date. It shall be routinely sent to all new committee members.
- Definitions: For purposes of the foregoing, the following definitions are applicable.
- Conflict of Interest:A situation in which professional judgment or behavior concerning a primary interest (in this case the integrity of ASHG) has been improperly influenced by a different interest (such as for financial gain). The prompt disclosure of possible conflicts of interest or of those situations where such a perception could reasonably be anticipated to arise helps to avoid injury to an agreed upon primary interest.
- Immediate family member: spouse/partner or son or daughter.
- Significant financial interest: payment for services or ownership or beneficial ownership of more than $5,000 except as stated in the NIH Conflict of Interest statement.
- ASHG official: any officer, member of the Board of Directors, Journal Editor, committee members, the Executive Director, and any member acting in any way as the society’s designated representative.
- Scope of disclosure: Any person covered by this policy shall disclose:
- if that individual or, to the best of his or her knowledge, an immediate family member has a significant financial interest in any commercial entity which provides products or services that are likely to be affected by actions taken by
- if within the previous twelve months, that individual or an immediate family member has received consulting fees, licensing fees, honoraria, stock options, travel expenses, gifts, gratuities, entertainment, free products or services in excess of $5,000 from any commercial entity which provides products or services that are likely to be affected by actions taken by
- if, currently, or within the previous twelve months, that individual or an immediate family member has served as an officer or director, or has been employed by or done research sponsored by or on behalf of any commercial entity which provides products or services that are likely to be affected by actions taken by
- if that individual becomes aware of any development in his or her life or in the life of an immediate family member that may compromise the integrity of
Filing the Disclosure Statement
Each individual governed by this policy shall file a disclosure statement annually with ASHG at its home office by a date to be determined by the Executive Director. A disclosure statement must also be promptly filed by any person appointed or elected to an ASHG position, and annually thereafter during the term of service.
The disclosure statements shall cover the subjects identified in this policy (as may be amended from time to time) and shall be in the form as prescribed by the Board of Directors.
The disclosure statements filed by officers, members of the Board of Directors, the Journal Editor, the committee members, and candidates for any of the aforesaid shall be reviewed by the Executive Director and the president. The disclosure statements filed by the president and the executive vice president shall be reviewed by the treasurer.
All disclosure statements shall be retained in a secure file at the ASHG office for one year after which they shall be destroyed under the direction of the executive director.
Any information provided in the disclosure statement will be treated as confidential. It will not be reviewed by any person except as provided herein.
Any individual governed by this policy who becomes aware of a possible conflict of interest during his or her tenure in an ASHG position shall promptly (within 30 days) disclose the relevant circumstances to the Executive Director and the president and recuse himself or herself until the matter has been reviewed.
Failure To Comply
Completion of a disclosure statement will be a requirement for nomination, election, appointment and, annually, for continuation in office. Failure to comply with this ASHG policy may be considered cause for removal as a candidate for or person from office.
ASHG Response To The Disclosure Statement
An individual who has made a disclosure that upon review does not appear to constitute an issue of sufficient magnitude to warrant further action by ASHG will be so informed by the Executive Director.
An individual who has made a disclosure that upon review does appear to constitute an issue of sufficient magnitude to warrant further action will be so informed in writing by the Executive Director. The Executive Director will promptly refer the matter to the Board of Directors. The individual will have the opportunity to fully present his or her view of the situation (by letter, teleconference, or other agreed upon means) to the Board of Directors.
If that body determines (by a simple majority vote of a quorum of its members) that the disclosure poses a conflict of interest or could create a substantial perception of a conflict of interest, it shall ask the individual to withdraw voluntarily from the service that he or she currently performs (or, in the case of nominees, hopes to perform) on behalf of ASHG. Such voluntary withdrawal shall complete the consideration of the potential conflict. In the case of a tie vote, the individual shall be permitted to continue in service to ASHG. In certain circumstances, the individual may need only to recuse himself or herself from a specific discussion and vote on a specific topic that may be perceived to create a potential conflict of interest for the individual.
Should the individual decline to withdraw, the matter must be reconsidered by a quorum of the Board of Directors. The individual shall have the opportunity (by letter, teleconference, or other agreed upon means) to state the grounds upon which he or she believes that the board should reverse its decision. If the board decides not to alter its earlier determination, it shall have the right by a simple majority vote of a quorum to terminate the individual’s service to ASHG. In the case of a tie vote, the individual shall be permitted to continue in service to ASHG.
ASHG Guidelines for Corporate Sponsorship
ASHG welcomes the opportunity to co-sponsor educational programs, public awareness projects, and special events with commercial entities interested in providing funding for such activities. By accepting financial support from corporate sponsors pursuant to these guidelines, ASHG believes it will more effectively meet its obligations to its members and to the public.
ASHG’s relationship with corporate sponsors is guided by the following principles:
- ASHG must retain scientific and educational control over the content of all commercially supported projects.
- ASHG must remain financially secure and independent of commercial funding.
- Any sponsorship agreement that involves an event with CME or CEUs will comply with the rules of the credit granting entity.
- All proposals from industry that involve ASHG should be approved by the Board of Directors. The Board is aware of the agreement that all sponsors must sign.
- In considering corporate sponsors for ASHG activities, ASHG should reach out to as many corporate partners as possible to ensure objectivity and prevent misunderstanding of the influence of industry on ASHG decisions.
Public Activities of Certain ASHG Members
ASHG officials are viewed as experts in human genetics and are often invited to speak to gatherings of the academic community or the general public. To avoid possible confusion or misunderstanding, ASHG officials who address such groups should clearly indicate whether they are speaking on behalf of ASHG or as private individuals.
From time to time, ASHG is asked to provide a representative to an Advisory Board or Committee, including State Health Departments. In addition, certain federally funded programs include in their requests for applications the requirement of the involvement of a national genetics professional organization on their advisory group. As it is in the best interest of ASHG to be engaged and informed of these activities, the Society will be responsive when it is deemed appropriate.
Requests come first to the ASHG offices, and if deemed appropriate, the Executive Director will forward the information to the President. If agreed to, the ED will draft the response to the requestor, contact the person(s) suggested as appointees, and follow up as necessary to fulfill the obligation agreed to.
Presidential Appointments to Advisory Boards and Committees
ASHG values the opportunity to be involved in a variety of activities relevant to the business of the Society. Any member of ASHG appointed by the President to an Advisory Board or Committee for a project or term appointment represents the professional human genetics and genomics community through his/her own expertise and experience. The appointee does not speak directly for ASHG as an organization, unless the statement content has been reviewed by the Board of Directors. Formal opinions or positions of ASHG become written documents to be approved by the elected Board of Directors of the organization. All position statements are then published, either in The American Journal of Human Genetics or on the ASHG website, or both.
ASHG members fulfilling an obligation resulting from a Presidential appointment are expected to provide written reports and updates to the Board of Directors for review. The reports are submitted annually or semi-annually, as appropriate, to the Executive Director. The ED is available throughout the tenure of the appointment for consultation, discussion, or as a liaison to the Executive Committee and the Board.