Idaho INBRE Conflict Resolution Policy

This policy is not intended to supersede the individual’s institutional conflict resolution policy. Idaho INBRE’s mission is to create supportive research and training environments and facilitate communication/collaborations among participants. The Idaho INBRE award is under the direction of Carolyn Hovde Bohach, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor at the University of Idaho, who serves as the Principal Investigator (PI) and as Director of the Administrative Core. Idaho INBRE is governed and overseen by a Steering Committee (SC) that includes Program Leaders at each participating institution and the External Advisory Committee (EAC) that consists of individuals with scientific, business, INBRE, and/or federal grant expertise.

The SC and EAC communicate regularly and develop strategies and policies that follow NIH guidelines, rules, and regulations. The EAC oversees program activities, reviews applications for new/replacement projects, and evaluates the progress and professional development of individual faculty investigators and collaborative teams. The SC is responsible for the formal resolution of disputes. This policy applies to all investigators, mentors, post-doctoral fellows, graduate/undergraduate students, and staff supported by Idaho INBRE.

The Idaho INBRE program provides funding for varying numbers of developmental, pilot, and other research projects within the State, following the agency specified requirements and expectations of the award mechanism (PAR-12-205), and described in detail in the Idaho INBRE proposals and subsequent internal funding opportunity announcements. All funded awards are subject to annual progress evaluation, and renewal/continuation of awards is dependent on EAC/SC approval. Policies and procedures that avoid any real or perceived conflicts of interest are in place to protect all parties. The best practice is to prevent conflicts or to prevent escalation of disagreements to conflicts.

I. Recommended behaviors to reduce disagreements and prevent conflicts involve:

Routine communication between partners:
• True appreciation of each partner’s contribution to the project.
• Recognition and respect of the role of the partner at his/her home institution and therefore, patience for competing demands on his/her time.
• Communication at the first twinge or suspicion of a misunderstanding on any issue or a sense of non-alignment with the research/program’s goals and objectives.
• Revisiting the proposal to review what was proposed; this document should be used to guide the communication between parties.

Situations where conflicts or disagreements could arise might involve:
• Authorship on manuscripts, patents, or other intellectual property claims.
• Expectations of who is responsible for project activities or experimental results.
• Expectations of who is responsible for project reports or presentations.
• Decisions involving funding and budgeting.

To prevent these types of misunderstandings from escalating into disagreements and conflicts, please remember to communicate with all parties and negotiate fair distribution of credit and effort before work is completed.

II. Resolution of Conflicts

We define conflict as a disagreement through which the parties involved perceive a threat to their needs, interests, or concerns. Idaho INBRE encourages the active resolution of conflicts in order to maintain and promote a fair and productive environment for all participants. Participants are encouraged to maintain and utilize open communication to promote and maintain a civil and humane resolution of any and all conflicts. The Idaho INBRE program encourages the resolution of conflict at the earliest opportunity, or the lowest step in whatever dispute resolution process is used. Both formal procedures and informal conflict resolution mechanisms are provided. Participants are encouraged to use informal resolution whenever appropriate. Together, the resources listed below are intended to provide fair, thoughtful, and effective means to manage and/or resolve conflict situations.

III. Informal Resolution of Conflicts

We recognize that resolving a conflict requires personal integrity on the part of all parties involved. It takes courage to honestly and clearly articulate needs and to listen to alternative/adversarial perspectives. It takes courage to look at one’s own role in the dispute, and to approach others with a sense of empathy, openness, and respect for their perspective. In some cases where disagreements occur between investigators at the same institution, the SC Member/Institutional Project Leader may contribute to the informal resolution process. The following general suggestions may help to informally resolve conflicts with co-workers, collaborators, and/or students constructively and respectfully.

A. Treat the other person with respect: Although respecting the other person during a conflict is challenging, one must try. Words of disrespect block communication.

B. Confront the problem: A time and place to discuss the conflict with the other person should be identified. The best time is when the parties are not arguing or angry. The place should be comfortable and away from either party’s “turf.”

C. Define the conflict: The conflict should be described in clear, concrete terms. Specificity of the “who, what, when, where, and why” of the situation should occur. Identify the problems for discussion, without focusing on the individuals. Behaviors, feelings, consequences, and desired changes should be discussed.

D. Communicate understanding: Listening to understand the other person’s feelings, needs, and so forth is needed. The parties should be encouraged to step back and try to imagine how the other person sees things. After discussing the issues, the parties should explain how they see the problem after discussion. It is especially important to discuss any changes in how the parties feel about the issues.

E. Explore alternative solutions: Alternative solutions should be offered. The consequences of each solution should be examined.

F. Agree on the most workable solution: A solution that all parties involved can understand and can live with should be adopted. Win-win solutions are most appropriate. Commitment to resolving the conflict is required.

G. Evaluate after time: After a certain time has passed, the parties should evaluate how well the solution is working. Adjustment of the resolution should occur if and when necessary.

IV. Formal Resolution of Conflicts

When informal conflict resolution is ineffective, formal mechanisms to resolution may be required. These steps will be used to formally resolve conflicts.

A. Program Director / SC Chair. The PI/PD will be the first point of contact in the formal conflict resolution process. Written statements describing the conflict issues will be collected from all participants. The PI will suggest possible strategies for resolution.

B. Steering Committee. Conflicts that cannot be resolved through the PI will be referred to the SC. The committee will consider the documentation, discuss the issues with the participants either separately or jointly, and may initiate other inquiries or request additional information to facilitate comprehension of the situation. The SC will discuss the issues with the participants either separately or jointly and will make a recommendation for resolution. The SC recommendation will be considered binding for the participants involved in the conflict.

This document was adopted, in-part, from the New Mexico INBRE Program.

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