Outside Business Activities (OBA)

OBA Process

Often Penn State faculty engage in entrepreneurial or professional services, both paid and unpaid, 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.  The University has an OBA Program within the Office for Research Protections to manage the annual reporting requirements and facilitate the pre-approval process.

Time Limitations

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 full 36-week appointment and 480 hours for a full 48-week appointment.

Activities Requiring Pre-Approval

A faculty member must request and obtain prior written approval from his/her department head or unit head prior to engaging in the following Outside Business Activities:

  • 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.).

Such requests can be made by filling out the Outside Business Activities Approval Form and submitting it to the department head.

Disclosure 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 of OBAs required to be reported are 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 third company. An electronic system for this reporting is planned for development, however, in the meantime, PDF reports will be collected through each college and department as they have been in the past.

Certain activities are expected of a faculty members as part of the normal scholarly activities and are not considered OBAs. Examples of these activities include peer review of articles, presentations at professional meetings, and preparation of scholarly publications. Additional examples of these activities can be found within the policy.

Resources:

Outside Business Activities and Private Consulting Policy AC80

Forms for Faculty:

Outside Business Activities Approval Form

Frequently Asked Questions

The University is consistent with our peer institutions in having a policy that limits the amount of Outside Business Activities that can be conducted during a faculty member’s appointment period. As a University, we recognize the need to balance our faculty members’ desire to engage in professional activities outside of the University with our responsibility to ensure our students have access to the resources they require. This policy is in place to ensure that external influences outside the scope of a faculty member’s University employment do not affect the performance of the faculty member’s duties to the University.

This policy applies to all full-time faculty employed by the University. This includes both tenure and non-tenure track faculty, research faculty, teaching faculty, clinical faculty, and professors of practice. Except where specifically noted, this policy does not apply to staff.

COI Staff who review the annual reports will see the information, and Department Heads will see pre-approval requests. 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.

This policy only covers activities that fall within a faculty member’s general area of expertise and are not specifically excluded as professional or scholarly activities. For example, if a Professor of Mechanical Engineering provides violin lessons on the weekends, this would not fall within that individual’s general area of expertise and would not count toward the hourly limit for OBAs nor would it need to be disclosed. Conversely, if a Professor of Music provides violin lessons on the side, this activity would fall within that individual’s general area of expertise and would count toward the hourly limit and would be required to be included in the annual disclosure.

Activities that fall within the general area of expertise but are considered scholarly or professional are also excluded from this policy (See Activities Not Subject to this Policy in Policy AC80). For clarification on whether a specific activity is excluded or not, please contact OBAadmin@psu.edu

Yes. Any period of time during which a faculty member is receiving supplemental pay is part of the appointment period. Therefore, the activities must be disclosed and the hours spent on these activities count toward the total number of permitted hours. If a faculty member receives supplemental pay for any part of a month, the faculty member should disclose the OBAs during that month.

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.

The COI Program maintains an Outside Business Activity Pre-Approval Form that should be used to request pre-approval for any of the five activities for which it is required. Once filled out, this form can be emailed to your department head. The activity for which pre-approval is being requested may not begin until the Department Head approves. Therefore, it is recommended that faculty members submit this form at least two weeks in advance of starting the required activity.​

A separate pre-approval form should be submitted for each entity with which you will be engaging in OBAs. However, the same form can be used for multiple activities with the same entity. For example, if you are starting a company and requesting to exceed the hourly limit to work with that company, you can submit one form to receive approval for both activities. Conversely, if you are starting a company and you are taking an executive or management position with a different third party, you should submit one pre-approval form to start the company and a separate pre-approval form for the executive or management position.​

It depends on the activity being approved as follows:

Exceeding the monthly or yearly time limits: the pre-approval extends through the specific time period requested. If that period concludes and a faculty member anticipates exceeding the hourly limit for additional months, he/she should submit a new pre-approval request with the new time period.

Involving students or staff: the pre-approval is for the specific students and staff requested on the form. If additional students or staff are to be included in the OBA, the faculty member should submit a new form.

Starting a company: the pre-approval form only needs to be submitted once and extends through the life of the company.

Teaching for an Entity other than the University: the pre-approval extends through the specific time period and courses requested to teach at the other entity. If additional teaching is to occur beyond that time period or the specified courses, the faculty member should submit a new form.

Assuming an executive or management position for a third party: the pre-approval form only needs to be submitted once unless the position with the third party changes.

Pre-approval must be obtained before starting the activity. While the policy does not require a specific time-frame, it is recommended that you submit the form to your department head at least two weeks in advance of beginning the activity to allow time for review and approval.​

If you are on a paid leave of absence, the time counts toward the hourly limit and you should report these activities. Unpaid leaves of absences are considered to be outside of the appointment period and activities undertaken during this time do not need to be reported nor do they count toward the hourly limit.

In general, we expect that more activities would be approved than denied. 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. In making this determination you can consider other outside activities the requester is engaged in as well as individual performance in teaching and research.

Exceeding the yearly hourly limit under AC80 should only be done in extraordinary cases. If you as a department head approve the request, the form should be forwarded on to your 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.

The Conflict of Interest Program in the Office for Research Protections manages compliance with this policy. You can contact us at OBAadmin@psu.edu