Outside Professional Activities (OPA)

The University's Outside Professional Activities (OPA) Program within the Office for Research Protections (ORP) manages the annual reporting requirements and facilitates the prior approval process for faculty engagement in entrepreneurial or professional services that meet the definition of Outside Professional 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 OPAs during that month. Policy AC80 also applies during sabbaticals.

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

AC80 Forms

Not sure which form to use? See below for additional information on activities that require prior approval.

Outside Professional Activities

Outside Professional 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 OPAs 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 OPA, or if you have any other questions, review policy AC80 or contact OBAadmin@psu.edu.

 

 

Time Limitations

The OPA program focuses on commitments away from University work. A faculty member may engage in OPAs 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 prior approval to exceed the hourly limit for any month in which it is anticipated that hours spent on OPAs 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 Outside Professional Activities that require prior-approval:

  • Exceeding the Monthly or Annual Time Limits defined above;
  • Involving undergraduate or graduate students, or University staff, in Outside Professional Activities;
  • Starting a company;
  • Outside Teaching during the Appointment Period;
  • Outside Professional Activities that involve the conveyance of intellectual property rights to another entity;
  • Compensated (money or In-Kind) Research from all foreign and domestic entities that is not subject to approval by the Office for Sponsored Programs;
  • Research at other entities for which there is a required time commitment or an agreement/contract between the faculty member and the other entity;
  • Chairing a doctoral or graduate committee at another university;
  • Holding a foreign or domestic position or professional appointment, including honorary, adjunct, and visiting positions or appointments, at another university (this includes titled academic, professional, or institutional appointments whether full-time, part-time, or voluntary) whether or not remuneration is received, other than those solely for the purpose of teaching a course outside of the Appointment Period;
  • Running or having fiduciary responsibility for a Research endeavor a another entity (e.g. lab, institute, program)
  • Participation in programs sponsored by foreign governments, instrumentalities, or entities, including foreign government-sponsored talent programs;
  • Becoming an employee of or Assuming an executive or management position for a third party entity (e.g., as President, Chief Scientific Officer, etc.) including serving on the advisory board positions that have fiduciary responsibilities on behalf of the third-party entity.

 

Approval should not be unreasonably withheld. However, withholding pior-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 Professional 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 prior-approval form should be submitted for each entity with which you will be engaging in OPAs. 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. 

Disclosure Requirements

Per Penn State Policy AC80, Outside Professional Activities and Conflict of Commitment, all faculty are required to disclose all Outside Professional Activities, including those for which Prior Approval was required and obtained, within 30 days of starting a new Outside Professional Activity; prior to an application for sponsored funding; or in certain instances as identified below, prior to starting the activity.  

  • Outside Teaching that takes place outside the Appointment Period should be disclosed within 30 days of accepting the Outside Teaching role or prior to starting that activity, whichever is earlier.