An Outside Activity is just what the name implies . . . "Outside." It is outside of, or not related to, your current official work. It is done outside of your NIH work area, using your own or the outside entity's resources, not Government resources. Outside Activities are governed by the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch (5 CFR 2635), by the HHS Supplemental Standards of Ethical Conduct (5 CFR 5501, 5502), and NIH policies and procedures.
The decision whether a request from an outside entity should be carried out in a personal capacity or as part of your official duties depends on:
- the reason you received the request,
- whether you have any current official duties which affect the outside entity, and
- whether the topic involves an announced policy or program of the NIH.
Invitations based on any of these criteria would likely be done as part of your official duties. See the Official Duty Activities summary.
Outside Activities involving professional work require advance approval from your Deputy Ethics Counselor or designee. Professional generally means that some level of advanced education or training is necessary to engage in the activity, such as licensure or certification (e.g., physician, nurse, ancillary health care, legal practice) or advanced education (e.g., teach college course; peer review manuscripts; consulting in your area of expertise). Activities may be a one-time event (or short duration) or be expected to continue for multiple years. Regardless of the expected length, approval is granted for only one year at a time, and renewal is required prior to the end of the currently approved time frame. In addition, all Outside Activities must be reported annually. Some activities, though professional, do not require advance approval because they are not related to the medical and scientific research of the NIH.
Specific Information About Outside Activities
- NIH Ethics Manual, Chapter 2400-07 Outside Activities (Outside Work) (sets NIH policy regarding Outside Activities, being revised)
- Criteria for Determining Outside Activity vs. Official Duty Activity (see above)
- "3-3-9 Framework" Summary of Prohibited Activities and Exceptions under 5 CFR 5501.109(c) ,
- Exceptions: Activities Which Do Not Require Advance Approval via the HHS-520:
- Letters to the Editor (DAEO Instruction 98-1) (HHS Intranet)
- Homeowners Association Officer/Board Member (DAEO Instruction 98-2) (HHS Intranet),
- Reminders for HHS 520 Outside Activity Requests
- Clinical Fellows Engaging in Outside Professional Practice ("Moonlighting")
- NEAC Meeting Dates
- List of foreign entities, government and private
- Acts of Self-Dealing: Prohibited Compensation from Private Foundations: The Internal Revenue Service code prohibits compensation for "acts of self-dealing" with private foundations for certain covered employees. Acts of self-dealing may include compensation for an outside activity or the cash prize associated with an award. Employees must understand the prohibition and how it affects, or does not affect, themselves. The Acts of Self-Dealing: Prohibited Compensation page contains information and a link to the IRS website where users can search for the organization to determine its status.
- Consulting with Law Firms
- "Cooling Off" Periods
- Legal Practice, Non-OGC Attorneys
- Use of Government Title in Activities with Outside Organizations
- Using a Disclaimer: Information regarding which situations outside of your official duties permit you to use your official title with a disclaimer.
- Expert Witness Outline, OGE DAEOgram DO-07-019 explaining the ethical restrictions on expert witness (OGE web site)
- HHS Supplemental Standards of Ethical Conduct (5 CFR 5501.106, 109), Sections 106 and 109 only, governing Outside Activities
- HHS Supplemental Financial Disclosure Requirements (5 CFR 5502), Sections 102, 103, and 104, governing the HHS-521 Annual Report
- Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, 5 CFR 2635, See Subpart H (OGE Web site)
- US Constitution, Emoluments Clause (Article I, Section 9, Clause 8) which prohibits certain activities with foreign governments
- Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Justice: University of Victoria decision which sets the standard for evaluating foreign educational institutions to determine whether they can be considered foreign government or private, for purposes of engaing in an outside activity. (Department of Justice web site)
- Clearance Requirements for Non-Immigrant Visa Holders
- NIH/FAES Memorandum of Understanding Regarding Interactions (2/26/10) The MOU defines the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences (FAES) as an independent legal entity. Requests for teaching or other activities with FAES will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis the same as any Outside Activity request for working with comparable institutions.
Forms and Instructions
Original Request: HHS-520 Request for Approval of Outside Activity (1/06)
Submit your request as soon as possible, but no later than 8 weeks prior to the proposed start date. NIH policy states that employees will submit the HHS-520 electronically, using the NIH Enterprise Ethics System (NEES). The following links are provided to the form and instructions to assist the employee, to permit viewing the format and arrangement of the form, and assistance in developing appropriate responses.
- Detailed instructions for employee submitting the HHS-520 request form ,
- Detailed instructions for reviewers, (supervisors through Ethics Office staff).
- Form HHS-520, Request for Approval of Outside Activity (1/06).
- Form NIH-2657, Supplement to Form HHS-520 (4/07) For activities involving clinical practice (physician, nurse, or other health care provider, legal practice or testimony, or consulting with an outside entity.
Annual Report of Outside Activities, HHS-521 (1/06)
Each year, every employee with an approved Outside Activity must submit the Annual Report of Outside Activities (HHS-521), due no later than February 28th. The report covers all Outside Activities which occurred during any portion of the previous calendar year, i.e., may have started in a previous year but continued into the reporting period. This is a report only, it does not seek nor convey approval to continue an activity, even if you indicate that you intend to continue a particular activity.
NIH policy states that employees will submit the HHS-521electronically, using the NIH Enterprise Ethics System (NEES). The following links are provided to the form and instructions to assist the employee, to permit viewing the format and arrangement of the form, and assistance in developing appropriate responses.
- Detailed instructions for employees and reviewers (supervisor through Ethics Office staff)
- Form HHS-521 Annual Report of Outside Activities (1/06), Fillable pdf format