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Treat authoring like a business: Keep your authoring separate from your full-time job

Open for BusinessTreating your authoring like a business means keeping your authoring separate from your full time job as a college or university professor, said Charles Williams, professor of sport management in the Department of Tourism, Recreation, and Sport Management at the University of Florida, and author of Personal Fitness: Looking Good/Feeling Good.

Because many institutions have conflict of interest policies and other guidelines that could affect your ability to either author a textbook or academic book as a separate activity, or limit it in some way, he said, it’s important to know where to find that information at your institution, and to learn what the rules are, so that you can protect your book income.

Campus departments may have different perspectives on what a faculty member can and cannot do in conjunction with receiving royalties, said Williams. For example, the Office of Technology and Licensing may imply that the university owns all intellectual property you produce, as these types of offices were established to generate income for universities after they Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 was passed.

“The best practice is to find and read the rules yourself,” he said. “You can usually find your institution’s conflict of interest policies in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, or in the General Counsel’s Office’s Policies and Procedures Handbook.”

These documents detail several different types of conflicts of interest, said Williams, including:

  • Time commitments that interfere with your duties, use of equipment, personnel or other university resources; involvement of employees and students supervised and evaluated by the employee; outside activities with an entity that does business with the college or university; and required use of books, supplies or other instructional resources when they are created or published by the employee or by an entity in which the employee has a financial interest.
  • Most institutions require book selections be made for academic reasons and not based on financial gains. Institutions may also prohibit employees from benefitting from the sale of instructional materials used exclusively in their classroom, such as class notes, annotated syllabi, and course packs.
  • Use of computing resources for commercial purposes, or for personal financial gain.
  • Use of university e-mail or letterhead in any way that appears you are acting on behalf of the university, when you are not. In other words, he said, don’t use university e-mail or letterhead to conduct authoring business.

Williams gives these suggestions for avoiding conflict of interest:

  • Know your university rules regarding conflict of interest.
  • Fill out the required conflict of interest forms.
  • Report potential conflict of interest, as it is the faculty member’s responsibility to disclose potential conflicts.
  • Consider logging in the dates and hours you worked on your book to verify that you didn’t do it on so-called “company time.”