Guidance Regarding Foreign Influence in University Research

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The current regulatory landscape informing the research enterprise includes serious growing concerns by the US Government concerning inappropriate influence by foreign entities over federal and state funded research. As a result, academic research institutions have a heightened interest in understanding the affiliations and dealings faculty members may have with foreign governments and entities. The University of Miami encourages international collaboration, and recognizes it is important for investigators to be transparent about their foreign relationships and activities. 

 Background

Federal and state agencies have issued statements expressing growing concerns over the potential for foreign influence in the areas including, but not limited to:

  1. failure by some researchers to disclose contributions of resources from other organizations, including foreign governments;
  2. diversion of intellectual property to foreign entities;
  3. sharing of confidential information by peer reviewers with others, including in some instances with foreign entities, or otherwise attempting to influence funding decisions.

In August 2018, Francis Collins, director of the NIH, alerted the research community to threats from foreign entities, and the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act included a provision alluding to the restriction of federal funding to institutions doing business with certain Chinese telecommunications companies.

Disclosure of Foreign Relationships and Activities

All investigators on sponsored projects should check the sponsor’s current disclosure requirements carefully and, if in doubt, reach out to your ORA Contact Person for disclosure assistance or further guidance. In addition, investigators should take the following actions:

  • Review and update Other Support and Current and Pending Support information in proposals
  • Review and update biosketches
  • Ensure appropriate disclosure of foreign components for NIH-supported projects
  • Review COI disclosure and update as necessary
  • Report all reimbursed or sponsored travel related to PHS-supported projects
  • Reach out to the Export Control Compliance Director, for guidance related to export control regulations
  • With the assistance of the Office of Technology Commercialization, enter into a material transfer agreement or nondisclosure agreement when sharing or exchanging materials or information

Guidance regarding the types of relationships and activities that University of Miami investigators are expected to disclose are explained below.

Additional Information

Federal Sponsor Disclosure Requirements

National Science Foundation (NSF)

All PIs, Co-PIs and non-Co-PI senior personnel from UM and subaward or collaborative institutions must provide a Current and Pending Support document, that:

  • Follows NSF guidelines for content and format.
  • Includes all current and pending support for ongoing projects and proposals from all sources, foreign and domestic.
  • Include support from Federal, State, local, foreign, public or private foundations, industrial or other commercial organizations, or internal funds allocated toward specific projects.
  • All projects or activities that require a time commitment from the individual must be included, even if there is no salary support from the project.
  • All PIs, Co-PIs and non-Co-PI senior personnel from UM and subaward or collaborative institutions must also provide a Biographical Sketch, disclosing all appointments.

References:

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

All PIs, Co-PIs and senior/key personnel from UM and subaward institutions must provide an Other Support document, typically at the “Just in Time” phase before an award is made and in progress reports (RPPRs) if there are changes in support or addition of key personnel. Other Support must:

  • Follow NIH guidelines for content and format.
  • Be provided for anyone contributing to the scientific development or execution of a project in a substantive, measurable way, whether or not they request salaries or compensation.
  • Include all financial resources, whether Federal, non-Federal, commercial or institutional, available in direct support of an individual's research endeavors. Include gifts in direct support of an individual’s research endeavors.
  • Include all non-financial resources (i.e. lab space, high value materials, animals, support for graduate students contributing to the research) uniquely available (i.e., not a shared resource or facility broadly available) in direct support of an individual's research endeavors. Non-financial resources can be reported in Facilities and Other Resources or the Other Support document.
  • Include all positions and appointments, domestic and foreign, with or without remuneration full-time, part-time, or voluntary.
  • Do Not include gifts and UM startup packages, unless in direct support of an individual’s research endeavors.

Also to be noted:

  • “Financial resources” is interpreted broadly and includes any project an individual is committing measurable effort to and research efforts under an appointment or affiliation with a foreign institution or entity where support is non-monetary.
  • Include in-kind support and selection to foreign talents or similar-type program.
  • Gifts and UM start up packages do not need to be reported. However, if a gift received from an outside entity is in direct support of an individual’s research endeavors, the recommendation is to report it.
  • All positions, appointments and honors should also be disclosed in the NIH Biographical Sketch
  • When in doubt, disclose.

NIH has specific requirements for foreign components related to disclosure. NIH defines foreign component as “performance of any significant scientific element or segment of a project outside of the United States, either by the recipient or by a researcher employed by a foreign organization, whether or not grant funds are expended.” Note that a visiting fellow working on an NIH funded project may be considered a foreign component and should be discussed with the NIH Grants Management Officer (see FAQ #7).

Disclosure of a foreign component must be made in the NIH application:

  • On the R&R Other Project Information Form
  • In a “Foreign Justification” attachment

See NIH NOT-OD-19-114 released July 10, 2019 and FAQs on Other Support and Foreign Components.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Current and pending support must be provided in NASA proposals as follows:

  • For all PIs and Co-PIs
  • For all Co-Is proposing to spend 10% or more of their time on the proposed project
  • PIs and Co-PIs must disclose all ongoing pending projects and proposals, regardless of salary
  • Co-Is must disclose ongoing and pending projects that require a significant share (more than 10%) of their time
  • Follow NASA requirements and formatting

NASA is restricted from using funds to enter into or under any grant or cooperative agreement of any kind “to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company, at the prime recipient level or at any subrecipient level, whether the bilateral involvement is funded or performed under a no-exchange of funds arrangement.” For all NASA proposals:

Everyone at UM must adhere to federal, state, agency and UM-specific guidelines related to foreign influence. For further information, refer to the Export Control Compliance information on the ORA website. Or, reach out to the Export Control Compliance Director, for guidance related to export control regulations.

Department of Defense (DOD)

As of April 20, 2019, DoD notice of funding opportunities (NFO) for research and research-related educational activities will include a requirement for current and pending support documentation from all key personnel at the proposal stage.

The current and pending support document must include:

A list of current projects the individual is working on, as well as any future support applied for, regardless of source. This includes all projects funded or pending funding decision from any source: all domestic and international sources, funds internal and external to UM, and funds paid directly to the individual.

  • Titles and objectives of the other research projects.
  • Percentage per year devoted to the other projects.
  • Total amount of support the individual is receiving or will receive.
  • Name and address of agencies and/or other parties supporting other research projects.
  • Period of performance for the other research projects.

For reference, see the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) memo issued on March 20, 2019.

Department of Energy (DOE)

DOE does not provide agency guidance on current and pending documents. Refer to specific DOE funding opportunity announcements for details.

On July 7, 2019, DOE issued a directive regarding foreign government talent programs. Per this directive:

  • DOE does not allow participation in foreign talent programs by its employees or contractor personnel.
  • A UM researcher who is contracted to work in a DOE national lab and who is part of a foreign talent program must remove his/her association with the talent program before receiving funding.
  • Foreign government talent recruitment programs are defined as, “any foreign-state-sponsored attempt to acquire U.S. scientific-funded research or technology through foreign government-run or funded recruitment programs that target scientists, engineers, academics, researchers, and entrepreneurs of all nationalities working or educated in the United States.”

Resources

If you have any questions regarding sponsor requirements for disclosure at the proposal stage, reach out to your ORA Contact person. If you have questions regarding disclosure or updates to disclosures once an award has been made, contact your Grant or Contract Officer.