Guidelines for disclosure of conflict of interest

Disclosure of conflict of interest allows the Organization to react promptly and appropriately when the impartiality and objectivity of CERN contributors in the performance of their functions for CERN or in the fulfilment of their contractual obligations towards the Organization might be influenced or compromised by their private interests or any other professional obligations or relationships.

Private interest” means any benefit, liability or relationship, financial or otherwise, of the CERN contributors, their family or friends, or any individual or organization with which the CERN contributors are directly or indirectly connected.

In addition, appropriate disclosure protects CERN contributors, demonstrates their commitment to integrity and reinforces the credibility of the Organization.

As the CERN contributor is often the only person aware of the situation which could result in actual or perceived conflict of interest, they have a personal responsibility to disclose it to CERN as soon as they become aware of it and, in particular, when they are called upon to advise on, to decide on or to control matters in which they might have a conflict of interest. 

The focus of these guidelines is the proactive management of situations which could result in actual or perceived conflict of interest. 

Situation to disclose 

CERN contributors are required to disclose any private interest or competing professional obligation or relationship which could impair or appear to impair their impartiality and objectivity in the performance of their functions for CERN or in the fulfilment of their contractual obligations towards the Organization. 

Listed below are some scenarios in which a conflict of interest could arise, and which would require disclosure: 

  • You are invited to take part in a recruitment board and one of the applicants is a member of your spouse’s family. 
  • You are involved in the negotiation of a contract between CERN and a company owned by a personal friend. 
  • You are asked to check invoices from a contractor which employs your child or your spouse.
  • You are asked to approve orders placed with a local supplier which offers a very good level of service, but also employs your spouse (or another member of your family) as sales representative. 
  • You are asked your views about a partnership between CERN and an institute where you conduct academic activities. 

Timing of the disclosure 

CERN contributors should disclose situations that could give rise to conflict of interest, or the perception thereof, at the earliest possible occasion.

Late disclosure could disrupt CERN operations, hamper an appropriate response from the Organization and/or ultimately compromise the credibility of the process concerned as well as that of the CERN contributor. 

Recipient of the disclosure 

Disclosure should be made to the relevant hierarchy at CERN, in accordance with the Conflict of Interest Policy.

If the process concerned is collective, e.g., a board or committee, the CERN contributor should also notify the other participants in the process of the situation. In the event of doubt, or of confidential situations, the level of detail required at this stage should be agreed with the CERN officer in charge of the process concerned. 

Format of the disclosure 

The format of the disclosure will depend on the circumstances.

CERN contributors may be requested to complete specific declarations in order to comply with procedures decided by the Organization. In some processes, e.g., recruitment exercises, the CERN officer in charge of the process may routinely ask CERN contributors as to the existence of any possible conflict of interest.

Note that the duty of the CERN contributor to disclose exists independent of whether a specific declaration form is provided or an inquiry is made.

In other scenarios, an oral disclosure may suffice. However, it is highly recommended that the disclosure be recorded in writing, e.g., by email or in meeting minutes, as this will provide evidence over time that the required and appropriate disclosure was made in a timely fashion. This is in the interests of the CERN contributor disclosing as well as those of the Organization. 

Protection of the information disclosed 

The Organization shall take the necessary measures to maintain records of disclosures made as well as to safeguard the confidentiality of any private information disclosed in respect of the conflict of interest policy. Recipients of disclosures shall respect confidentiality, and communicate information contained in such disclosures on a strict “need to know” basis.

Effect of the disclosure 

Disclosure does not necessarily mean that the CERN contributor is ineligible to participate in the process in question.

As set out in the Conflict of Interest Policy, “The Organization shall react promptly and appropriately to disclosures of conflicts of interest, to ensure, inter alia, that the impartiality and objectivity of the CERN contributor is not influenced or compromised or perceived as such. It shall take the necessary measures to maintain the confidentiality of any private information disclosed.” 

Depending on the nature of both the process and the situation, and after discussion with the CERN officer in charge of the process and/or the relevant hierarchy at CERN, a variety of outcomes could be agreed upon.

Strategies could include: 

• Abstaining from all or certain aspects of a discussion, or process

• Participating in the discussion but not the decision-making aspect

• Participating only in an anonymised process (e.g., marking of recruitment tests)

• Referring matters to other colleagues or the hierarchy

• Refraining from taking part in decisions regarding financial or investment matters or policy

• Declining to participate in internal or external bodies

• Deciding not to supervise or provide references for certain individuals

It is strongly recommended that a written record be maintained of any such strategy agreed upon as well as of the measures taken.

In case of doubt

If you are unsure about any aspects of these guidelines, it is your responsibility to seek clarification and/or advice from your hierarchy at CERN, the Human Resources Department or the Internal Audit.

Reference documents