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International Activities

Background

Federal agencies are increasing the requirements for principal investigators (PIs) to disclose their foreign sources of support and to disclose how those sources are being used to support the proposed and related research. UC Merced researchers who receive federal funding for research activities need to be aware of these requirements and how each federal agency interprets what is meant by foreign sources of support. Some of these requirements have been in place for some time and others are new or are being interpreted differently and/or more rigorously than in the past.   UC Merced encourages international collaborations, but it is important for our investigators to be transparent about their foreign relationships and activities.  

The Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED) has compiled the following information to provide guidance and resources to remind researchers of their compliance obligations to federal sponsors. Guidance issued by federal agencies related to the potential impact on grants and contracts is provided in the Sponsor Agency Information section. Please note many of these disclosures requirements have been in place for extended lengths of time, and new guidance is provided for clarity and as reminders. 

 

1. NIH - The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a Notice on July 10, 2019, reminding research institutions that NIH-funded researchers must “report foreign activities through documentation of other support, foreign components, and financial conflict of interest to prevent scientific, budgetary, or commitment overlap” (NOT-OD-19-114). Other Support includes “all resources made available to a researcher in support of and/or related to all of their research endeavors, regardless of whether or not they have monetary value and regardless of whether they are based at the institution the researcher identifies for the current grant.” An FAQ can be found here.  There are multiple ways in which foreign components can be disclosed on award proposals:

• Identifying a “foreign component” in an NIH grant application;

• Listing a “non-U.S. performance site”;

• Identifying foreign relationships and activities in a biosketch;

• Checking “yes” to the question on the Cover Page Supplement Form asking, “Does this project involve activities outside of the United States or partnerships with international collaborators?”

Financial resources should be disclosed even if they relate to work that is performed outside of a researcher’s appointment period. For example, if a researcher with a 9-month appointment spends two months at a university outside of the U.S. during the summer conducting research under a foreign award, that activity should be disclosed.

2. The National Defense Authorization Act, signed in August 2018, included Sec. 1286, which stated that “The Secretary of Defense shall, in consultation with other appropriate government organizations, establish an initiative to work with academic institutions who perform defense research and engineering activities . . . to limit undue influence, including through foreign talent programs, by countries to exploit United State Technology ... ”

On March 20, 2019 the Department of Defense issued a memo explicitly outlining disclosure requirements for all key personnel listed on research and research-related educational activities supported by DoD grants and contracts.

3.  NSF - The National Science Foundation issued a Dear Colleague Letter on July 11, 2019, outlining its plans to “address emerging risks to the nation’s science and engineering enterprise.” Among the key points are:

     • NSF is proposing to use an electronic format for submission of biographical sketches, including disclosure of all appointments.

     • NSF has commissioned a study to assess risks and recommend possible practices for NSF and its awardee organizations to achieve the best balance              between openness and security of science.

     • NSF is issuing a policy making it clear that NSF personnel and IPAs detailed to NSF cannot participate in foreign government talent recruitment programs.

     • Note: These disclosure requirements are in addition to the NSF Conflict of Interest disclosure requirements.

4.  DOE - The Department of Energy issued a directive dated June 7, 2019, mandating that “federal and contractor personnel fully disclose and, as necessary, terminate affiliations with foreign government-supported talent recruitment programs” on new DOE contracts and subcontracts. DOE is expected to issue a separate policy directive to implement the requirement on DOE grants and cooperative agreements.

5.  For DoD, proposers must submit the following information for all key personnel—not just the PI and Co-PI—whether or not the individuals' efforts under the project are to be funded by the DoD:

• A list of all current projects the individual is working on.

• Any future (pending) support the individual has applied to receive, regardless of the source.

• Title and objectives of each of these research projects.

• The percentage per year each of the key personnel will devote to the other projects.

• The total amount of support the individual is receiving in connection to each of the other research projects or will receive if other proposals are awarded.

• Name and address of the agencies and/or other parties supporting the other research projects.

• Period of performance for the other research projects.

DoD indicates that failure to submit this information may cause the proposal to be returned without further review. DoD also reserves the right to request further details from a proposer before making a final determination on funding the effort.

6.  NASA - As a reminder, NASA has long-standing restrictions on using NASA funds to enter into agreements “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” (grant restrictionscontract restrictions).

 

Huawei Moratorium

With the increased scrutiny of the U.S. government on Huawei and its subsidiaries and subsequent indictments, in July 2019, the University of California imposed an indefinite moratorium on any engagements with Huawei or its subsidiaries. This includes not engaging in any new interactions, nor renewing any existing ones with Huawei or any of its subsidiaries until further notice. This includes research grants, gifts, contracts, research agreements, MOUs, purchases, exchanges of information or intellectual property, and collaboration or consortium membership. You can find the letter sent to the campuses from UCOP here. For questions regarding the moratorium, please contact exportcontrols@ucmerced.edu.

 

Federal Agency Inquiries – Escalation Protocol

In the last year, federal funding agencies have sent several letters of inquiry to UC campuses regarding the international activities of researchers and faculty members. These inquiry letters often ask campuses to investigate the referenced foreign activities. In order to appropriately, track, monitor, and investigate these, UC President Napolitano has put in place an Escalation Protocol that campuses must follow when receiving an inquiry from a federal agency regarding foreign activities.  Please read the FAQs on the escalation protocol for a better understanding of what is required. For any inquiries about the escalation protocol procedures please contact our Locally Designated Official (LDO) Luanna Putney at lputney@ucmerced.edu. To report any knowledge of any violation of federal policy or law, please go to http://ethics.ucmerced.edu/reporting-improper-activities.

 

Questions 

While most international collaborations are perfectly acceptable and encouraged, we urge researchers to err on the side of transparency. ORED aims to work closely with the Deans, Chairs, and unit heads to ensure they can provide the best advice for each scenario.

For questions on the general topic of foreign influence please contact Associate Vice Chancellor Deborah Motton at dmotton@ucmerced.edu.

For questions on how to disclose other support please contact local departmental research administrator.

 

Resources 

University of California Office of the President: Foreign Influence website

FBI Report on the risks to academia 

NIH presentation on Foreign Influences on Research Integrity (PDF): https://acd.od.nih.gov/documents/presentations/12132018ForeignInfluences...

NSF Statement on security and science dated Oct. 23, 2018: https://www.nsf.gov/nsb/publications/2018/NSB-2018-42-statement-on-secur...

NIH Definition of Foreign Component: https://grants.nih.gov/grants/glossary.htm#ForeignComponent

NIH Definition of Other Support: https://grants.nih.gov/grants/forms/othersupport.htm

NIH Application Instructions (Foreign Components mentioned on page 66): https://grants.nih.gov/grants/how-to-apply-application-guide/forms-e/general-forms-e.pdf

NIH Guidance on Investigator Disclosures of Foreign Financial Interest: https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-18-160.html

H.R. 5515 Sec. 1286: National Defense Authorization Act's initiative to protect researchers from undue influence and security threats: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/5515/text?utm_me...

 

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