policy & Publications

NSGC Conflict of Interest Policies

The National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) promotes the professional interests of genetic counselors and provides a network for professional communication.  Local and national continuing education opportunities and the discussion of all issues relevant to human genetics and the genetic counseling profession are an integral part of membership in NSGC.  NSGC is dedicated to advancing the various roles of genetic counselors in health care by fostering education, research, and public policy to ensure the availability of quality genetic services.

The integrity of NSGC, and the activities it undertakes, depends on the avoidance of conflicts of interest (COI), or even the appearance of such conflicts, by the individuals involved in those activities.  At the same time, NSGC recognizes that its members have significant professional, business, and personal interests and relationships.  Therefore NSGC has determined that the most appropriate manner in which to address actual, potential or apparent COI is initially through liberal disclosure of any relationship or interest that might be construed as resulting in such a conflict.  Disclosure under this Conflict of Interest Policy (Policy) should not be construed as creating a presumption of impropriety or as automatically precluding someone from participating in an NSGC activity.

Guiding Principles

NSGC aims to uphold these principles through its COI policies and practices:

  1. Strive to ensure that NSGC’s activities and operations are not unduly influenced by parties with competing financial, professional, or personal interest.
  2. Promote fairness by requiring all members involved in NSGC operations, sponsored programs, and NSGC committees to report and evaluate COI in a similar manner.
  3. Foster a culture of inclusiveness to bring potential COI to light without fear of negative repercussions.
  4. Promote inclusion of all members in NSGC’s activities so long as COI policies are followed.
  5. Uphold transparency by ensuring that NSGC’s COI policies are readily available to its members and the public.

Policies

NSGC has a number of policies that address means by which COI is addressed within the organization:

Policy on NSGC Staff and Organizational Leaders

This policy applies to members of NSGC’s staff, Board of Directors, Committees, Task Forces, author groups, SIG leaders, and NSGC liaisons, hereafter referred to as “NSGC organizational leaders and staff”.   Any individual involved in an NSGC activity or decision-making process has an obligation to disclose any conflicting or potentially conflicting personal, professional, or business interests he/ she may have, directly or indirectly, with the relevant activity or decision.

Potentially conflicting interests may relate to NSGC’s programs and services (e.g., educational courses) or its operations (e.g., contracts with third parties).  In the event an officer, director, or member of an NSGC Task Force, SIG group, or other committee (collectively, referred to herein as “committee members”) determines he/she has a conflict of interest on a particular matter, he/ she shall disclose the conflict to the NSGC’s Board of Directors and/or to the other committee members, as applicable.

In addition, participants in NSGC-related activities are obligated to disclose the positions they hold or relationships they have with other organizations or entities that may conflict, directly or indirectly, with their NSGC activities.  They also have an obligation to disclose any significant financial interest in or other relationship with, an entity having a “commercial interest” in the activity.  A commercial interest may exist not only where the entity’s products or services are under consideration by NSGC, but also where the entity’s products or services are in competition or potential competition with those under consideration.  By the disclosure of such interests, other participants will have the opportunity to take potential biases into consideration.  In addition, the Board of Directors (or, as applicable, committee members) will be in a better position to determine whether the participant may have an interest in conflict with the interests of NSGC.

To help ensure full disclosure of any actual or potential COI, all participants in NSGC-related activities, including NSGC’s organizational leaders and staff, must comply with this Policy and (at a minimum) annually sign and submit a COI Disclosure Form to:

    (i) Acknowledge that he/ she is aware of and has read the COI policy; and
    (ii) Disclose the information described above

If, subsequent to any such annual disclosure (but prior to execution of a new annual Disclosure Form), an NSGC staff member or organizational leader shall promptly make the required disclosure by submitting a revised Disclosure Form identifying the organization, business, group, entity, etc., and describing the nature of the relationship.

It is the responsibility of the members of the Board or, as applicable, committee members without a COI pertinent to the matter at hand, to interpret and apply this Policy.  And, inasmuch as the Policy is stated in general terms, the Board or its designee(s) should use their best judgment in doing so.

Policy on Support for Educational Programs and Publications 

NSGC conducts professional continuing education program, advocates for access to genetic and genomic services care, and supports rigorous clinical and translational research.  These programs are supported in part by funding from non-profit organizations and corporations. To ensure that NSGC’s programs are developed and conducted independent of sponsor influences, NSGC has established policies, procedures, and a firewall to separate program development from commercial support, exhibitor/sponsor rules and regulations, and a COI policy for its educational programs.  The NSGC Speaker Contract and Conflict of Interest Form aligns with this policy.

Policy on Practice Guidelines Conflict of Interest 

The purpose of the COI practice guidelines policy is to ensure transparency regarding potential and actual COI.  NSGC carefully balances known biases of task force members, reviews COI Disclosure Forms, limits participation when appropriate, and provides strong oversight of its committees.  All NSGC volunteers, including Board members, committee members, task force members, SIG leaders, staff, and NSGC liaisons are asked to complete an NSGC COI Disclosure Form, as are all authors of NSGC Policy Statements and NSGC Practice Guidelines.  Members of NSGC who are involved in the writing, development or oversight of a practice guideline must comply with NSGC’s Code of Ethics.

Exhibitor/Sponsor Rules & Regulations 

This policy outlines eligibility requirements and roles and responsibilities of exhibitors and sponsors participating in the NSGC Annual Educational Conference.

Policy on NSGC Partnerships 

A partnership is defined as any relationship mutually beneficial to NSGC and another organization or entity.  Examples may include the dissemination of an NSGC product by another organization, dissemination of another organization’s product by NSGC, co-sponsorship of an educational opportunity, a partnership to offer additional benefits to NSGC members, or NSGC endorsement of a product or publication produced by another organization.  A partnership may or may not involve monetary or other material returns for the NSGC. NSGC’s mission and vision statements should provide high-level guidance for consideration of any partnership.  Any partnership that does not support NSGC’s mission threatens NSGC’s ability to provide representation and leadership for the genetic counseling profession.

Policy on Name, Logo and Trademark Use 

Written authorization of NSGC must be obtained prior to the use of NSGC’s name, logos, and trademarks for any purpose other than NSGC business in the form of the NSGC Licensing Agreement.  NSGC’s name, marks, or logos shall not be used if such use could be construed as an endorsement of a company, person, product service, or activity unless there is a written agreement between NSGC and the company or individual outlining the terms of the endorsement.

Policy on Website Advertising 

Authorization from NSGC must be obtained prior to the placement of website advertising on the NSGC website.  When website advertising is offered as a benefit of NSGC sponsorship, the NSGC Executive Director must review and approve the website advertisement prior to placement.  The NSGC President will be consulted if the advertisement does not comply with the general guidelines as outlined below. When advertisement is requested in exchange for equivalent advertisement on an Advertiser’s website, written approval must be granted by the NSGC President in consultation with the NSGC Executive Committee.

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