Academic Policies

AC80 Faculty Outside Professional Activities and Conflict of Commitment (Formerly HR80)

Policy Status: 


Subject Matter Expert: 

Debra Thurley, 814-865-1775,

Policy Steward: 

Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs






This Policy has two principal purposes. The first is to set forth policies and principles that permit University faculty to engage in activities outside the University ("Outside Professional Activities") while preserving their primary professional duties and responsibilities to the University and remaining consistent with federal regulations and guidelines. The second is to provide a basis for reporting Outside Professional Activities of faculty to the University.

University faculty are encouraged to engage in outside activities when such activities enhance the mission of the University and do not compete with the University. Faculty members' primary professional duties and responsibilities are to the University, and such primary obligations require that faculty be available and accessible to fulfill the requirements of their appointment. This Policy is not intended to discourage Outside Professional Activities but aspires to ensure that all such activities do not conflict or materially interfere with any faculty member’s appointment with the University, with reference to the University’s mission. The University affirms its commitment to academic freedom as set forth in Policy AC64, Academic Freedom and to its mission of creating new knowledge and of effectively communicating accumulated knowledge and understanding to students and to the community at large. 


This Policy applies to all full-time faculty. The policy does not apply to Part-time Academic faculty (see Policy HR06, Types of Appointments), staff, graduate students, or postdoctoral scholars.  University staff are expected to follow all University Human Resource policies concerning time worked and time reporting applicable to staff including Policy AD77 - Staff Outside Professional Activities (Conflict of Commitment). Permission to engage in outside activities by staff and how those hours are accounted for is at the discretion of their supervisor and not subject to this Policy.  Engaging in outside activities by postdoctoral scholars or fellows is at the discretion of their supervisor or academic program and must comply with all applicable University policies related to their University appointment, employment, or contractual agreement.


Appointment Period: A faculty member’s academic appointment period (usually either 36 weeks or 48 weeks), including sabbaticals, paid leave from the University, and periods covered by supplemental University appointments, (e.g., twelve-week summer appointment), constitute the Appointment Period. 

Conflict of Commitment: A situation in which a faculty member accepts or incurs external obligations, either paid or unpaid, that conflict or appear to conflict with their primary obligation and commitment to the University. Conflict of Commitment includes but is not limited to situations that involved conflicting commitments of time and effort, obligations to improperly share information with an entity outside the University, or obligations to withhold information from the University or a funding agency.

In-Kind: Payment or support in goods or services instead of money. Examples of In-Kind compensation include but are not limited to equipment, office/laboratory space, sponsored travel, and services of employees or students. 

Outside Professional Activities: Outside Professional Activities are entrepreneurial or professional services, paid or unpaid, that are in the general area of expertise for which the faculty member is employed by the University, but are beyond the scope of the individual's University employment responsibilities.  A faculty member's area of expertise shall be as defined by their department or unit head and/or Dean or cognizant Administrative Officer. 

Outside Teaching: A type of Outside Professional Activity that includes all semester-length or equivalent teaching engagements, both within and outside of a faculty member's general area of expertise, at a post-secondary institution of higher education other than The Pennsylvania State University. 

Research: Systematic investigation, study, or experiment designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. The term encompasses basic and applied research that may or may not be published in an article, book, or book chapter and product development (e.g., a diagnostic test or drug). As used in this Policy, the term includes, but is not limited to, any such activity for which sponsored funding is available from a federal, state, or local government agency, or a public or private entity, through a grant, contract, or cooperative agreement (e.g., a research grant, career development award, center grant, individual fellowship award, infrastructure award, institutional training grant, program project, research resources award, training grant, or outreach award) or gift. As used in this Policy, Research also includes research activities that are not funded or sponsored. 

Scholarly Activities: Activities that are generally expected of a faculty member as part of their professional portfolio, whether compensated or uncompensated. These activities are not Outside Professional Activities as defined by this Policy and do not require disclosure or prior approval. The following are examples of Scholarly Activities: 

  • Peer review of articles and grant proposals;
  • Presentations and workshops at professional meetings or other similar gatherings;
  • Leadership positions in professional societies;
  • Preparation of scholarly publications;
  • Unpaid (i.e. neither cash nor In-Kind compensation) scholarly collaboration with an institution of higher education for which there is no agreement or required time commitment;
  • Editorial services for educational or professional organizations;
  • Service on advisory committees or evaluation panels for governmental funding agencies, nonprofit foundations, or educational organizations;
  • Serving on, but not chairing, master's or doctoral thesis committees at another university;
  • Service with accreditation agencies;
  • Musical and other creative performances and exhibitions.

Starting a Company:  A type of Outside Professional Activity that is defined as filing or having filed the appropriate articles of organization or articles of incorporation with a government authority or otherwise forming or founding a legal entity as a business concern, including investing in an existing business with the intent to be involved in its operations. The company does not have to be active, operational, or profitable to fall under this policy. The company may be a for-profit or a not-for-profit organization. A company includes any corporation, LLC, LP, LLP, LLLP, or GP.  



Any Outside Professional Activities engaged in by faculty:

  1. Shall not interfere with the performance of their University duties or other contractual obligations to the University or to Research sponsors (including non-classroom and non-Research responsibilities expected of all faculty members);
  2. Should strive to be consistent with their professional stature or academic proficiency;
  3. Shall not adversely affect the University's interests or mission or violate this Policy or any other University policies or regulations including, but not limited to, policies or regulations related to intellectual property, conflict of interest, use of University's name, logo, letterhead, or other resources, etc.;
  4. Shall require prior approval in the instances outlined below ("Required Prior Approval");
  5. Shall not involve routing remuneration for such services to the University or any University account (e.g., a gift account), unless it is considered to be within the scope of employment, e.g. College of Medicine faculty who are asked to serve as expert or fact witnesses in their role as Hershey Medical Center physicians (Policy L-24HAM).

All outside activities conducted by faculty members, including Scholarly Activities, shall not:

  1. Adversely affect the University's interests or mission;
  2. Require a significant commitment or an excessive amount of time that interferes with a faculty member's primary University responsibilities; or
  3. Compete with coursework or services provided by the University.

Colleges and campuses shall maintain their own guidance under this Policy; however, such guidance must not contradict this Policy. All guidance and changes to guidance are subject to the approval of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs before implementation and will be reviewed annually to ensure consistency with the intent and purpose of this Policy. The Policy Steward for AC80 should maintain a single website displaying each College's and Campus's current guidance under this Policy.

The time limits in this policy apply to Outside Professional Activities that occur during the Appointment Period. All other provisions of this policy, including but not limited to Required Prior Approval and Required Disclosure, apply at all times, regardless of the Appointment Period (except as specifically noted). This Policy does not otherwise limit or constrain the application of other University rules and policies.

Related Policies 

Outside Professional Activities may create the potential for or perceptions of a conflict of interest between the faculty member's individual financial interests created by the Outside Professional Activity and their related University Research. In addition to any prior approval required by this Policy, such potential or perceived conflicts may need to be disclosed and properly managed or eliminated prior to engaging in the Outside Professional Activity, in accordance with Policy RP06, Disclosure and Management of Significant Financial Interests.

Outside Professional Activities, regardless of whether such activities occur during or outside a faculty member’s Appointment Period, may also need to be disclosed as per the requirements of policy RA20, Proposal Submission.

A faculty member may not provide special service to the Commonwealth for additional compensation without prior written approval of the President of the University. Please see Policy HR42 Payment of Personal Compensation by a State Agency or Department of the Commonwealth for more information on this topic.

For other policies relevant to the conduct of all outside activities, see the cross-referenced policies at the end of this Policy.


A faculty member may engage in Outside Professional Activities up to forty (40) hours per month throughout the duration of their Appointment Period ("Monthly Time Limit"). Thus, faculty with a thirty-six (36) week appointment may engage in Outside Professional Activities for a maximum of forty (40) hours per month for the 36 weeks of their appointment period, but no more than 360 hours total during that 36 week period; and, faculty with a forty-eight (48) week appointment may consult for a maximum of forty (40) hours per month for the 48 weeks of their appointment, but no more than 480 hours total during that 48-week period ("Annual Time Limit"). Full-time faculty on a temporarily reduced appointment or partial supplemental salary should contact the Office for Research Protections to determine how time limits apply. 


In addition to disclosing Outside Professional Activities as required in the Required Disclosures section below, a faculty member must request and obtain prior written approval from their department head or unit head prior to engaging in the following Outside Professional Activities, regardless of whether these activities take place during or outside of the Appointment Period (except as specifically noted):

  • Exceeding the Monthly or Annual time limits defined above during the Appointment Period;
  • Involving undergraduate or graduate students, or University staff, in Outside Professional Activities;
  • Starting a Company;
  • Outside Teaching during the Appointment Period;
  • Outside Professional Activities that involve the conveyance of intellectual property rights to another entity;
  • Compensated (money or In-Kind) Research from all foreign and domestic entities that is not subject to approval by the Office for Sponsored Programs;
  • Research at other entities for which there is a required time commitment or an agreement/contract between the faculty member and the other entity;
  • Chairing a doctoral or graduate committee at another university;
  • Holding a foreign or domestic position or professional appointment, including honorary, adjunct, and visiting positions or appointments, at another university (this includes titled academic, professional, or institutional appointments whether full-time, part-time, or voluntary) whether or not remuneration is received, other than those solely for the purpose of teaching a course outside of the Appointment Period;
  • Running or having fiduciary responsibility for a Research endeavor at another entity (e.g., a lab, institute, program);
  • Participation in programs sponsored by foreign governments, instrumentalities, or entities, including foreign government-sponsored talent recruitment programs;
  • Becoming an employee of or assuming an executive or management position for a third party entity (e.g., as President, Chief Scientific Officer, etc.) including serving on advisory board positions that have fiduciary responsibilities on behalf of the third-party entity.

Such requests are made by submitting an Outside Professional Activities Request form. Department heads and unit heads shall review all Outside Professional Activities Requests for approval to ensure the proposed Outside Professional Activities do not violate this Policy and are appropriate in relation to the performance of the faculty member's regular University duties. Based on the nature of the activity and following department/unit head approval, the Office for Research Protections may determine that other approvals—including but not limited to approvals from the Office of Research Protections, Risk Management, the Office of Technology Management, or others as relevant—are required before this activity may begin. Department heads, unit heads, and other relevant offices providing approval may request and require additional information or clarification from the faculty member regarding the proposed Outside Professional Activities if such information or clarification is deemed necessary to make a decision to approve or disapprove the request.

In extraordinary circumstances, with an articulated University need, the Dean may request permission from the Provost for a faculty member to exceed the Annual Time Limit. Outside commitments requiring extensive time may require a leave of absence pursuant to Policy HR16, Leave of Absence without Salary, and should be discussed and decided upon with the faculty member’s department/unit head or another cognizant University administrator. Leaves of absence are not governed by this policy.

The Office for Research Protections will serve as a policy guidance resource to faculty, department heads, and Colleges to help promote consistency in the prior approval and annual reporting process across the University.

Approval for Outside Professional Activities shall not be unreasonably withheld. Where a department or unit head declines to approve a request, the faculty member may request a written explanation, outlining 1) the reason for denying the request, 2) the specific provision(s) of this policy potentially violated by the activity, and 3) a description of how the Outside Professional Activity will have an adverse impact on the faculty member’s teaching, Research, or service responsibilities to the University.

Appeals Process. Any faculty member may appeal any action or decision taken under this policy to the University Faculty Senate Faculty Rights and Responsibility Committee.


All faculty are required to disclose all Outside Professional Activities, including those for which Prior Approval was required and obtained, at least annually; within 30 days of starting a new Outside Professional Activity; prior to an application for sponsored funding; or in certain instances as identified below, prior to starting the activity. Disclosures shall be made according to the procedures developed by the Office for Research Protections.

Examples of Outside Professional Activities that require disclosure include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Private Consulting that does not involve Research;
  • Serving as an expert witness;
  • Practicing a licensed profession, (e.g., veterinarian, architect, nurse, attorney) beyond what is required to maintain licensure or certification;
  • Conducting short course offerings not for academic credit, including professional courses for licensing;
  • Serving on a board of directors outside of the University;
  • Activities for which a faculty member received prior approval;
  • Other activities as required by a government agency, when applicable.

Activities that must be disclosed but that do not count toward the Monthly or Annual Time Limit are:

  • All Outside Professional Activities that are conducted outside the Appointment Period;
  • Practice of a licensed profession to the extent that the hours are required to maintain licensure or certifications that are required for the faculty member's University role and responsibilities;
  • Outside Teaching that takes place outside the Appointment Period should be disclosed within 30 days of accepting the Outside Teaching role or prior to starting that activity, whichever is earlier.

Note: The above may require prior approval or further review under another policy or under college-specific guidelines. See e.g., RP06.


The University shall identify appropriate training regarding this Policy that shall be completed by all faculty at least once every four (4) years or immediately upon the occurrence of one of the circumstances listed below. Training shall enhance understanding of various factors that are included in the concept of Conflict of Commitment, as well as increase awareness of circumstances that may indicate an increased risk to research security and integrity. Immediate training shall be required under the following circumstances:

  • When the University makes revisions to this Policy that impact a faculty member's responsibilities under this Policy;
  • When a faculty member is new to the University;
  • When the University finds that a faculty member is not in compliance with this Policy.


A faculty member is solely responsible for their Outside Professional Activities. The University assumes no responsibility for Outside Professional Activities performed by members of its faculty. The name of the University is not in any way to be connected with the service rendered or the results obtained. The faculty member must make it clear that their Outside Professional Activities are a personal matter. A faculty member shall not accept or retain employment which would bring them, as an expert or in any other capacity, into material conflict or in competition with the interests and purposes of the University (See Policy AD07 Use of University name, Symbols and/or Graphic Devices).


Policy FN14 Use of University Tangible Assets, Equipment, Supplies and Services prohibits the use of University facilities and resources including but not limited to specialized equipment, specialized software, supplies and services for Outside Professional Activities. Faculty may access University facilities for Outside Professional Activities in the same manner available to non-University personnel, with a written agreement executed through the appropriate channels. Faculty may not use the University’s name, logo, letterhead, or email in their Outside Professional Activities.


Decisions about whether to involve students and staff in a faculty member’s Outside Professional Activities should be guided by determining whether the proposed activities best serve the interests of the students and staff. Faculty cannot require students or staff to become involved in Outside Professional Activities . Faculty may hire students or staff to assist with faculty Outside Professional Activities outside the scope of the student's or staff member's University duties with appropriate approval. Such arrangements require the full knowledge and prior approval of 1) the faculty's department head or unit head, and 2) the student's faculty advisor or dean of undergraduate or graduate education and/or 3) the staff member's direct supervisor. Staff participation in Outside Professional Activities may not take place during University work hours. There is a section on the Outside Professional Activities Request form to request and document the required approval related to staff and students. Safeguards must be instituted on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the performance of University duties and the scholarly mission of the University are not compromised. Faculty must avoid even the appearance of directing students and staff into Research activities or Outside Professional Activities that primarily serve their own personal interests. Such arrangements with students may also require review and approval by the University's Individual Conflict of Interest Committee pursuant to the requirements outlined in Policy RP06, Disclosure and Management of Significant Financial Interests.


In some situations, a plan for managing a faculty member’s Outside Professional Activities, insofar as they interact with, or relate to, the faculty member’s University duties, may be developed by the relevant department head, dean, and/or Office for Research Protections, in collaboration with the faculty member.


Any non-compliance with this Policy, including but not limited to a faculty member’s failure to obtain prior approval when required, or exceeding the time limits outlined above, shall be referred to the relevant department/unit head, dean or next highest level of authority, and the Provost, by the Office for Research Protections. Those Administrators may consult with the Office for Research Protections to best determine any corrective or disciplinary actions to implement due to non-compliance with this Policy and shall be managed in accordance with all other applicable University policies and procedures.  It is understood that de minimis failures of compliance shall in ordinary course be subject to correction but not discipline. Intentional or significant noncompliance, however, shall be treated as a serious matter meriting discipline appropriate to the circumstances. The goals of corrective and/or disciplinary actions include, but are not limited to, reinforcing education, mitigating risks caused by noncompliance, and deterring further noncompliance. When applicable, the University shall share information about instances of noncompliance with this Policy as required by government agencies.


The University cannot comment on or offer input regarding the rate of compensation or the tax consequences associated with Outside Professional Activities.  The University will not provide legal advice on the terms of any Outside Professional Activities or any disputes arising therefrom.


University faculty cannot serve as paid consultants and/or contractors for University activities, either directly as private consultants, or through a third-party (for guidance, see Policy BS17, Use and Procurement of External Consultants). In situations where extra services are required from current employees, compensation must be as an employee, whether within the scope of their appointment or through supplemental compensation.


All faculty are required to sign the Penn State Intellectual Property Agreement which states that all faculty agree as a condition of employment by the University to abide by the University's Intellectual Property Policies and Procedures. Any personal or outside activity that University faculty and/or personnel wish to undertake in deviation of their Intellectual Property Agreement or the University's Intellectual Property Policies and Procedures, including but not limited to any conveyance of intellectual property rights assigned to the University and/or Penn State Research Foundation, must be approved by the Office of Technology Management, and approval is at the University's sole discretion. Faculty should not enter into any agreement that violates Penn State Intellectual Property policies or conveys rights in intellectual property rights already assigned to Penn State. 


AC21 - Definition of Academic Ranks (formerly HR21);

AC64 - Academic Freedom;

AD07 - Use of University Name, Symbols, and/or Graphic Devices;

AD77 - Engaging in Outside Professional Activities (Conflict of Commitment);

BS17 - Use and Procurement of External Consultants;

FN14 - Use of University Tangible Assets, Equipment, Supplies and Services;

HR42 - Payment of Personal Compensation by a State Agency or Department of the Commonwealth;

HR91 - Conflict of Interest;

HR06 - Types of Appointments;

RA20 - Proposal Submission;

RP06 - Disclosure and Management of Significant Financial Interests


Most Recent Changes:

  • May 28, 2024 - Fixed broken links.

Revision History (and effective dates):

  • September 1, 2023 - Updated Subject Matter Expert to Debra Thurley.

Date Approved: 

December 14, 2021

Date Published: 

December 14, 2021

Effective Date: 

September 4, 2018