Outside Business Activities (OBA)

The University's Outside Business Activities (OBA) Program within the Office for Research Protections (ORP) manages the annual reporting requirements and facilitates the pre-approval process for faculty engagement in entrepreneurial or professional services that meet the definition of Outside Business Activities (Policy AC80). This applies to both tenure and non-tenure track faculty, research faculty, teaching faculty, clinical faculty, and professors of practice. If a faculty member receives supplemental pay for any part of a month, the faculty member should disclose the OBAs during that month. Policy AC80 also applies during sabbaticals.

This policy does not apply to staff; staff engagement in consultations or other OBAs is at the discretion of the supervisor and may require that the staff member use paid time off. 

Outside Business Activities

Outside Business Activities are paid or unpaid services that are in the faculty member's general area of expertise but are beyond the scope of the individual's employment at the University. The University encourages its employees to engage in outside activities when such activities enhance the mission of the University, do not compete with the University, and do not conflict or materially interfere with any faculty member's appointment with the University.

Required reports of OBAs will be collected through each college and department annually and will be facilitated by the ORP and reviewed by COI staff. The Provost will receive a yearly report with aggregated data that is reported annually. Deans and Department Heads, upon request, will also have access to reports for information that falls within their college/unit and will see pre-approval requests.

To determine if specific activities meet the definition of an OBA, or if you have any other questions, review policy AC80 or contact OBAadmin@psu.edu.

Time Limitations

The OBA program focuses on committments away from University work. A faculty member may engage in OBAs up to an equivalent of 40 hours per month, (or one day per week), throughout the duration of the appointment period, annually not to exceed 360 hours for a 36-week appointment and 480 hours for a 48-week appointment. The time limit is a monthly limit. Faculty members should request pre-approval to exceed the hourly limit for any month in which it is anticipated that hours spent on OBAs will exceed the monthly limit even if the total hours spent during the appointment period is less than the yearly limit.

Exceeding Time Limitations

Exceeding the yearly hourly limit under AC80 should only be done in extraordinary cases. If a department head approves the request, the form should be forwarded on to the Dean who will then obtain approval from the Office of the Provost. Exceeding the hourly limit is considered an exception to Policy AC80 and requires a higher level of review.

Prior-Approval

The following are examples of Outside Business Activities that require prior-approval:

  • Exceeding the monthly or annual time limits defined above;
  • Involving undergraduate or graduate students, or University staff, in Outside Business Activities;
  • Starting a company;
  • Teaching for an Entity other than the University during the Appointment Period;
  • Assuming an executive or management position for a third party entity (e.g., as President, Chief Scientific Officer, etc.).

 

Approval should not be unreasonably withheld.  However, withholding pre-approval is appropriate when the proposed activity, considering the totality of the circumstances, would significantly detract from the requester’s University responsibilities and obligations. 

Requesting Prior-Approval

Prior-approval can be requested by filling out the Outside Business Activities Approval Form and submitting it to the department head. It is recommended to submit the form at least two weeks in advance of beginning the activity to allow time for review and approval.​ A separate pre-approval form should be submitted for each entity with which you will be engaging in OBAs. The same form can be used for multiple activities with the same entity. For example, one form can be used to request starting a company and requesting to exceed the hourly limit to work with that company. 

Reporting Requirements

Penn State Policy AC80, Outside Business Activities and Private Consulting requires annual reporting of some OBAs even though those activities do not require prior approval. Examples include: private consulting, serving as an expert witness, practicing a licensed profession, teaching for another university outside of the appointment period, becoming an employee of a third party, or serving on the board of directors of a company.