Researchers in Illinois who receive federal funding are required to file paperwork disclosing potential conflicts of interest, but these handwritten forms just moulder in the NIH's filing cabinets…until now.
Propublica's first spelunk through the data found two profs who received more than $600,000 (how much more isn't known — they're in the $600k-and-up category) in money that creates a potential conflict with their work. They also found numerous academics at the other end of the scale, unable to support themselves on their university wages and eking out an existence doing part-time work on the side.
Some of the people in the database seem to have entirely separate careers — a campus police chief who also owns dozens of apartments, or a registrar who also owned a company that built assisted living facilities.
Now, Propublica is hoping that the public will search the database and do their own work to see what conflicts emerge.
The app is useful for Illinois residents in particular, even those not interested in academic ethics. That's because state law here requires all public employees with supervisory responsibilities, including faculty and administrators, to disclose any significant outside income or assets to the secretary of state. People who work at private universities are exempt from the rule. From 2016 through 2018, public university employees in Illinois filed disclosures detailing more than 12,000 outside financial relationships, giving people here more information than in any other state in our database.
Use This Tool to Find Potential Conflicts of Interest At Public Universities. We Did. [Haru Coryne/Propublica]