Foreign Influences on Research
International Activities: What, When, Why and How to Report
BGSU values and encourages international collaborations as these activities significantly enhance our teaching, research and learning activities. However, the U.S. government has recently expressed serious concern over improper foreign influence in U.S. academic research. These concerns fall into four major categories: peer review violations; failure to disclose substantial foreign resources and support (both monetary and in-kind); failure to disclose significant foreign financial Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment; and compliance with Regulatory requirements.
Certain foreign entities are offering both financial and non-financial support to U.S.-based faculty members including the awarding of research grants, honoraria, stipends and sponsored travel in addition to the provision of professional services, in-kind resources and other forms of support. In some cases, these types of support are being offered to obtain confidential information or to lead faculty in conducting undesirable or illegal acts. These acts include the diversion of intellectual property belonging to U.S. institutions to foreign entities, the sharing by reviewers of confidential information contained within grant applications or unpublished manuscripts, and the failure of researchers to disclose external research support, including those from foreign sources which might subvert the funding decisions of domestic agencies who are unaware of this support.
These concerns were highlighted in recent letters and notices from several federal funding agencies:
- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reiterating their reporting requirements for foreign activities
- National Science Foundation (NSF) outlining its plans to “address emerging risks to the nation’s science and engineering enterprise"
- Department of Energy (DOE) mandating the disclosure and possible termination of participation of foreign talent recruitment programs by DOE contractors
- Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering alerting the research community to "threats" from foreign entities that undermine the integrity of U.S. research
Other federal funding agencies and national organizations have joined in this national conversation of protections against undue foreign influences on research.
The following list of available support services and suggested procedures are best practices that should be followed by research-active faculty to assist them with preventing undue foreign influences and potential violations of University policy, Ohio ethics law, or grant terms. Violating the terms of your grants and/or failing to report outside activities as required by the CBA may constitute grounds for disciplinary action.
You should: Alert your Dean and Department Chair / Director and contact OSPR.
Why: Certain foreign talent recruitment programs have been identified as means to exert undue influences on US researchers / obtain confidential information.
Possible Outcomes: The recruitment program will be screened for national security risks, violation of grant terms, and conflicts with University policy and ethics law.
You should: Register your trip on BGSU Travel Registry and consult the ITS International Travel website to see if you are travelling to a "high risk" country and any mandatory precautions
When: 4 weeks prior to travel or else as far in advance as possible
Why: All BGSU related travel must be registered. Certain countries have been designated by the US government as "high risk" for data and information theft by hacking into the laptops and personal electronic devices of foreign visitors.
Possible Outcomes: Receive a clean laptop from ITS for loan during travel. Adhere to precautions required or recommended by ITS.
You should: Alert your Dean and Department Chair / Director and contact the Office of Sponsored Programs & Research (OSPR).
When: Immediately / prior to accepting such support.
Why: All external research support, whether from domestic or foreign sources, must be disclosed to federal grant agencies, and some other granting agencies.
Possible Outcomes: Appropriately modify your Current & Pending Support forms. Decline inappropriate assistance.
You should: Alert your Dean and Department Chair / Director and Contact OSPR
When: Immediately / Prior to entering into relationship
Why: The Department Chair / Director and Dean should be informed of consulting engagements (whether domestic or foreign) during your contract period. The foreign entity might be on a national security watchlist. Your grant may require disclosure of or prohibit such relationship.
Possible Outcomes: Receive verification that your consulting activities are in compliance with Article 30 of the CBA; OSPR will screen the foreign entity for national security risks.
Support: OSPR and Faculty Association for BUFM regarding Article 30 of the CBA
You should: Alert your Dean and Department Chair / Director; and contact OSPR.
Why: Certain foreign proposed collaborators have been identified as means to exert undue influences on US researchers / obtain confidential information.
Possible Outcomes: The proposed collaborator will be screened for national security risks, violation of grant terms, and conflicts with University policy and ethics law. Any necessary agreement will be developed and signed.
You should: Contact the Office of International Programs and Partnerships (IPP) and contact the Office of General Counsel
Why: All institutional partnerships involving domestic or foreign entities must be approved by the administration.
Possible Outcomes: The Office of International Programs and Partnerships will engage the appropriate administrative officials for examination and approval.
You should: Alert your Dean and Department Chair / Director and contact OSPR
When: Immediately / Prior to entering into affiliation
Why: The affiliating entity might be on a national security watch list; Any professional affiliation, whether domestic or foreign, has the potential for creating a conflict of interest (COI) and/or a conflict of commitment (COC) with your BGSU employment activities.
Possible Outcomes: OSPR will screen the affiliating institution for potential national security risks; in cases of a potential conflict of interest or commitment, a COI or COC management plan will be developed.
You should: Contact OSPR
When: As early as possible prior to beginning the work.
Why: Some funding agencies have specific clauses with regard to international collaborations.
Possible Outcomes: The funding agreement will be written to be compliant with the agency guidelines.
You should: Contact OSPR
Why: The company might be on a national security watch list; To identify potential for creating a COI and/or COC with your BGSU employment activities.
Possible Outcomes: OSPR will screen the company for potential national security risks;
if necessary, a COI or COC management plan will be developed.
You should: Alert your Dean and Department Chair / Director and contact IPP
When: Prior to extending the invitation
Why: To ensure compliance with federal export control regulations.
Possible Outcomes: The visiting individuals or groups will be screened against a national data base for possible national security risks.
You should: Contact and the Office of Technology Transfer Services (OTTS)
Why: Agreements govern the use of the transferred materials and are necessary to protect the rights of both the providing and recipient institutions.
Possible Outcomes: A Material Transfer or Data Use Agreement will be developed and signed.