External Activities Frequently Asked Questions

The FAQs below provide supplemental guidance for UAB employees and their supervisors on various special circumstances surrounding external activities.  For more general FAQs, including those specifically about the forms processes, see UAB Electronic Forms.

If you have a 9-month appointment – even if you do not have official UAB duties to perform between terms or over the summer – keep in m ind that you are considered a full-time employee and are expected to obtain advance approval for external activities you perform during those periods.  For example, if you are a 9-month faculty member and do not have a summer contract but plan to teach online for another institution during that time, you must obtain and document approval from your supervisor in advance of doing so with a Request for External Activity Approval Form.  Also, as a tip, be sure to consult with the UAB Copyright Policy prior to using any curricular materials developed at UAB.

No.  Under UAB’s Effort Reporting Policy and Procedures, external activities and paid professional public service activities conducted on employees’ own time are excluded from the category of University Activities for which effort must be assigned.  Therefore, time and effort associated with external activities and paid professional public service activities conducted on employees’ own time fall outside of Total UAB Effort and would not be expected to appear or be accounted for on employees’ effort reports.

While all external activities require prior approval from department and school leadership, in the case of any expert-witness activity, Office of Counsel now will be consulted to review the proposed activity prior to department and school leadership approval.  UAB employees will be required to provide specific details from the law firm about the scope of work and proposed compensation as well as contact information for the coordinating attorney for details about the case. This type of service involves a heightened risk of infringing on a UAB employee’s duties and conflicting with the interests of the UAB enterprise.  

Important considerations in deciding whether to accept an expert witness opportunity include whether:
  • UAB is a party to the lawsuit;
  • Lawsuit involves a claim related to a pharmaceutical drug or medical device;
  • Lawsuit involves a medical malpractice claim filed in Alabama; or
  • Opinions are based on data resulting from work conducted at or on behalf of UAB.
Also, remember that:
  • Advance approval is required (pursuant to UAB's online process);
  • Activity must be conducted outside the scope of a UAB team member's employment so that UAB is not responsible for any proceeding or cause of action arising out of the external activity;
  • Use of UAB resources is prohibited; and
  • UAB team members must not hold themselves out as representatives of UAB or imply that their opinions are shared or endorsed by UAB.

Equity in or ownership of a commercial company does not require advance approval, but if you are an investigator, it will likely require a disclosure of financial interest to the CIRB.  Take a look at the CIRB’s requirements at www.uab.edu/cirb.  However, employment, consulting, service on the board of directors, or other activities with an employee-owned company do require advance approval as an external activity.  Remember, if you continue your work with the company beyond 12 months from the time approval is obtained, you are expected to complete a new form for the next year.

Be sure to recuse yourself from any discussion, selection, or negotiation of potential business relationships between an entity that you own, or an entity for which you are on the governing board or are an officer, and UAB.  This includes non-profit and public entities.  Influencing a decision for UAB to pay this organization for services can create potential state ethics law issues, which carry criminal penalties.  Also, ensure you are not using UAB resources on behalf of this entity.  Again, this presents state ethics law concerns.  Instead, avoid comingling your role with regard to this entity and your UAB role, and if any use of UAB resources is anticipated, work with your fiscal officer who will specify, valuate, and secure payment for such use.

Heightened review processes exist for institutional conflict of interest if UAB or an institutional official holds an equity interest in a company that desires to conduct clinical human research at UAB.  For more information, see UAB’s Institutional Conflict of Interest Policy or contact the University Compliance Office.

See also the Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship's Start-up Guide for UAB Employee Inventors and Entrepreneurs.  

Professional public service activities are specifically defined in the UAB Enterprise Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment Policy and follow the exceptions for conflicts of interest outlined in the federal research regulations.  They are activities that are performed for external entities but are considered to be part of an employee’s institutional responsibilities or academic appointment.Professional public service activities may or may not be separately compensated.  Typically, outside organizations offer no more than reimbursement of lodging and travel expenses, a minor token of appreciation, or small honorarium to recognize the work performed.  As a general rule of thumb, the greater the compensation, the less likely the activity is to be categorized as a professional public service activity. 

It is important to categorize activities properly so that employees and reviewers can identify appropriate treatment.  Generally, professional public service activities do not require advance approval of supervisors.  However, your school may have stricter requirements for approval of professional public service activities, so check with your dean’s level reviewer.  If you are unsure as to how an activity is best categorized, err on the side of external activity and seek approval prior to performing the services. 

If you are an investigator and you receive more than $5000 in remuneration from any single external entity during a 12-month period, you are required to submit a Notice of Professional Public Service Activity at UAB Electronic Forms.  For example, if you are invited as a guest lecturer to talk about your scholarship and the University of Hawaii pays for your travel expenses (presumably a value greater than $5000), you will need to submit a Notice of Professional Public Service Activity.  No advance approval is required by University policy or federal regulation, but you should check with your deans’ level reviewer to see if anything else might be necessary from the school’s perspective.

As part of one's institutional responsibilities or academic appointment, time away from UAB work to perform professional public service activities generally qualifies for professional leave.

Generally, for faculty members with scholarship as part of their appointment or criteria for promotion and tenure, authoring a manuscript or textbook is not an external activity that requires advance approval by leadership.  Textbook royalties, however, may need to be disclosed as financial interests to the Conflict of Interest Review Board, if the author is an investigator under the UAB Enterprise Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment Policy.  If you are retained in advance by a commercial entity to author a manuscript or textbook, this would be considered an external activity and would require advance approval by leadership.  In these instances, affiliation with the commercial entity must be attributed appropriately and all funding sources supporting the work disclosed.

Editorship activities should be evaluated carefully to determine whether they are more appropriate to conduct as an individual external activity or as an official UAB activity that is arranged for through University Contracts, especially if the activities require additional UAB resources, like administrative or secretarial support.

UAB employees should be aware of their responsibilities under UAB’s Authorship Policy.  Ghostwriting is strictly prohibited.  Consider using a disclosure or disclaimer slide in external activity presentations and publications that indicates you are not speaking on behalf of UAB and that you are presenting personal views, not those of the institution.

If you desire to assign a textbook you authored or receive royalties for a course you are teaching, contact your school’s curriculum committee.  You must follow its process for approval prior to requiring students purchase it.

HR Policy 128 describes how UAB employees must account for the time they spend away from their UAB work when performing external activities.  Because a UAB employee’s work time is considered a UAB resource, UAB employees must avoid performing external activities during their regular work time and be diligent to restrict external activities to their own time. 

“One’s own time” is interpreted differently depending on the UAB employee’s status as either faculty or staff.  For staff, this includes after regular work hours, weekends, holidays/personal holidays, and vacation.  Full-time faculty’s own time includes those categories, as well as up to 20 days of “external activity leave” per calendar year, which allows them to rearrange work schedules to fulfill UAB work commitments in the remaining time. 

Remember, activities categorized as professional public service activities may be eligible for professional leave, as they are considered to be official UAB activities or consistent within typical expectations of an academic appointment.  Consult with your dean’s level reviewer to understand more closely the expectations for disclosure and performance of professional public service activities in your school.  Some schools have stricter standards, especially if professional public service activities begin to encroach on other mission-critical work, like research and classroom instruction.

 Always use the official leave system (eLAS) to account and obtain approval for time away.  eLAS will track the number of external activity days and does not allow submission of requests for external activity leave beyond 20 days per calendar year.   Contact HR to learn more about the eLAS system and reports that may be helpful for managers to monitor time away.

Under the federal Open Payments Law pharmaceutical and medical device/supply companies are required to report to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services all direct and indirect transfers of value >$10 to individual physicians, dentists, and optometrists.  Information about these transfers is then made publicly available online.  Typical transfers of value include consulting fees, honoraria, gifts, entertainment, food, travel, education, and charitable contributions.  Industry research awards made to the University are also reported separately with provider principal investigators identified.

UAB providers do not have disclosure responsibilities to CMS under this law, but there are steps to being prepared when information is reported about you.  See the Open Payments resource page available from the University Compliance Office.

For physicians, dentists, optometrists, and other healthcare providers, fair market value avoids the perception that payment may be an inducement for referring, prescribing, or ordering the entity’s products or services, a potential violation of the federal anti-kickback statute.  For more information, see UAB Medicine Guidelines for Relationships with Industry.

Information submitted through Request for External Activity Approval forms is stored within a searchable database.  Reviewers have access to data related to employees within the orgs for which they have authority.  If a department chair or dean has delegated review to an administrator and is not listed simultaneously as a reviewer, the chair or dean will not have access to the database and will have to work through the delegate to obtain information.


Reports show an employee’s total portfolio of external activity request forms.  If reviewers have questions or concerns about the cumulative amount of time spent engaged in external activities, not simply for one activity at a time, this information may be helpful to address potential conflicts of commitment.  For information on accessing the database and running reports, see this instruction guide with screenshots [insert] for more information.

 To submit a Request for External Activity Approval Form:
  • Go to UAB Electronic Forms and login with your blazer id and password.

  • Click on link entitled "External/Internal Activity Approval/Financial Interests Disclosure".

  • Indicate the reason for your form submission is to request external activity approval.

  • Complete the remaining form questions.  Provide as much information as needed for reviewers to make an informed judgment as to whether the external activity meets institutional standards, including “when” you plan to perform the work – whether during evenings, on weekends, rearranging UAB work for external activities days, or on vacation – so that reviewers can anticipate whether or not an eLAS time off request may also be submitted.

  • If you recognize you need more details about your external activity prior to submitting the form, scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Save.”  You can come back to it on the “Saved Forms” tab on the UAB Electronic Forms website.

  • Once full and complete, click “Submit” at the bottom of the form. 

While you are required to obtain approval in advance of your external activity, UAB encourages full transparency, and the electronic form does allow for after-the-fact submissions.  You will be expected to describe why the form was not submitted timely.  In some circumstances, there may be consequences for non-compliance, particularly if the information was needed by the CIRB for purposes of managing conflicts of interest in research.  Remember, obtaining approval in advance of your activity protects you and UAB.

Has your external activity been canceled or have important aspects of the arrangement with the external entity changed?  If so, you may need to modify the Request for External Activity Approval Form to include the updated information.  The modification process may be used to correct dates, refine estimated amounts, or provide additional information in the descriptions. Keep in mind that this modification process should not be used to create new activities or extend them beyond 12 months from the original start date; new forms are required under those circumstances. 


To modify an approved Request for External Activity Approval Form:

  • Go to UAB Electronic Forms and login with your blazer id and password.

  • From the UAB Electronic Forms website, go to the “History” tab and click on the icon beside the activity you wish to revise.

  • When prompted, select the radio button to indicate your desire to make changes, and proceed to modify the information in the form.

  • When all changes have been made, click “submit” at the bottom of the page.  Once submitted, a modified form proceeds through the same review channels as an initial form, but it does not highlight to the reviewer the modified fields.  Therefore, to speed the process, consider entering in the description field a note to reviewers about what has changed to ensure their attention is drawn to those specific items.