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Using A Disclaimer

The Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch restrict use of official titles to avoid the appearance of inappropriate endorsement by the United States government and use of public office for private gain.  Regardless of the prohibition, there are some specific instances when an employee’s title can be used with a disclaimer stating that the views are the employee’s and not those of the NIH or US Government. The basic content of a disclaimer is as follows, with edits to fit the specific permissible situation.

This [explain activity] was prepared or accomplished by [insert author's name] in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health and Human Services, or the United States government.

Official Duties: No disclaimer is needed. When an employee is engaged in any official duty activity with an outside organization, the employee may use his/her official Government title in connection with the activities without violating ethics rules.  In an official duty, the employee represents the Government and therefore reference to current official position or title is permitted.  This applies to speaking, teaching, writing, and any other activities carried out on behalf of the Government.  See also the information on Official Duty Activities.

Completing Work for Prior Employer: When completing written work for a prior employer, employees must include a disclaimer to ensure that the work is not inappropriately attributed to the NIH, HHS, or the United States Government, even if the employee is permitted official time to complete the work. The disclaimer makes it clear that the work is not an official government work. See also information on the Completing Work for Prior Employer page.

Outside Activities: Generally, when engaged in outside activities, employees may not use or reference their titles or NIH affiliation except as one of several biographical details and provided it is given no more prominence than other significant details. However, there are limited circumstances when employees may permit their titles to be used, as long as there is a prominent disclaimer, as explained below:

  • An employee may use, or permit the use of, his/her title in connection with authorship of an article to be published in a scientific or professional journal, or editorial board or service for a scientific or professional journal, provided that the title or position is accompanied by a reasonably prominent disclaimer stating that the views expressed in the article are the employee's and do not represent those of the Government.

Example:  Dr. Pat Jones works with another faculty member as part of his teaching at the local university as an approved outside activity.  He and the other faculty member jointly prepare an article for publication in a scientific journal. He may use his official Government title but it must be accompanied by the following disclaimer, prominently placed so readers see it: Dr. Jones contributed to this article in his personal capacity. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Institutes of Health or the United States Government.

  • The Standards permit employees to use their official Government title in connection with outside activities that do not involve teaching, speaking or writing, provided the employee's title or position is not used in a manner that could reasonably be construed to imply that the employee's agency or the Government sanctions or endorses the employee's activities. Therefore, employees may use their official government title in connection with an outside activity (other than teaching, speaking, or writing), only as follows:

An employee may permit his/her name and official title in connection with an outside activity (other than teaching, speaking, or writing) as long as there is a prominent disclaimer indicating that the employee is serving in a personal capacity, e.g., the name and official title may be listed on the letterhead or other program provided that the listing contains an asterisk with an explanatory side or footnote stating that the individual serves in his/her personal capacity.

Example:  As a member of an award committee for a professional association in his personal capacity, Dr. Jones helps the association review award nominations and determine the winner.  His name and title are listed on the award nomination form as follows:  Dr. Pat Jones, National Institutes of Health* and at the bottom of the list is the following disclaimer:  *Dr. Jones is serving in his personal capacity.