The U.S. Government is increasingly concerned about inappropriate influence by foreign entities over federally funded research. A primary focus resulting from this concern is ensuring federally funded researchers at U.S. institutions disclose their relationships and activities with foreign institutions and/or funding agencies, which could jeopardize an individual’s eligibility to receive future funding. USC encourages international collaborations while reiterating the importance of our faculty and investigators being transparent about their involvement with foreign entities. The following information is provided to guide the research community on how to meet the obligations associated with reporting outside activities to federal agencies.The recent message from the funding agencies is clear: investigators and their universities must disclose completely all foreign activities to their federal funding sponsors.
UofSC requires that all faculty and investigators disclose outside activities related to their professional expertise, whether domestic or foreign, via the UofSC outside activity disclosure process. Faculty must receive prior approval before engaging in outside professional activities and report those activities no less than annually.
ACAF 1.50 Outside Professional Activities: https://sc.edu/policies/ppm/acaf150.pdf
RSCH 1.06 Disclosure of Financial Interests: https://sc.edu/policies/ppm/rsch106.pdf
The reporting and disclosure requirements imposed by federal funding agencies go beyond what is required by the university with extra emphasis placed on foreign sources of support and how those sources are used to support the proposed and/or related research. UofSC researchers who are applying for and receiving federal funding need to be aware of these requirements and how each federal agency defines foreign sources of support. While many of these requirements have been in place for some time, they are being reinterpreted and more heavily emphasized than in the past.
OSTP Letter to Research Community: https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/OSTP-letter-to-the-US-research-community-september-2019.pdf
Guidance issued by federal agencies related to the potential impact on grants and contracts is provided below.
The disclosure of foreign activities to NIH should be made as Other Support, Foreign Component, and/or within the Biosketch.
Other Support – NIH requires senior/key personnel to disclose all resources made available to them in support of or related to all their research endeavors, regardless of whether they have monetary value and regardless of the performance site of the research. Even if the researcher performs the activity outside of the researcher’s appointment period (e.g., a nine-month faculty member conducts the activity during the summer months) the researcher must disclose the activity if it supports or relates to his/her research endeavors.
Examples of other support include, but are not limited to, the following when they are in support of an investigator’s research endeavors:
- Domestic and foreign grants and contracts, whether provided through UofSC, another institution, or to the researcher directly;
- Financial support for laboratory personnel (e.g., students, postdocs, or scholars working in a researcher’s UofSC lab who are supported by a foreign entity either through salary, stipend, or receipt of living or travel expenses);
- Provision of lab space at another institution, foreign or domestic;
- Provision of scientific materials that are not freely available for use at UofSC or another institution where the faculty is working (e.g., biologics, chemical, model systems, technology, equipment, etc.);
- Travel expenses directly paid or reimbursed by an outside entity;
- Living expenses directly paid or reimbursed by an outside entity; and
- Other funding (e.g., salary, stipend, honoraria, etc.) paid by an outside entity.
NIH requires Other Support to be submitted as part of the Just-in-Time procedures. All other support indicated above must be included in that process. Researchers are responsible for promptly notifying NIH of any substantive changes to previously submitted Just-in-Time information up to the time of award.
After the initial NIH award, researchers must disclose other support in the annual research performance progress report (RPPR). Additionally, for post-award disclosures of other support, recipients must address any substantive changes by submitting a prior approval request to NIH.
Foreign Component – Any significant scientific element or segment of a project outside of the U.S., either by the recipient or by a researcher employed by a foreign entity, regardless of whether grant funds are expended. There is a 2-part test for determining whether an activity meets the definition of foreign component: (1) will a portion of the project will be conducted outside of the U.S.? and (2) is that portion of the project significant? Some examples of foreign activities that may be considered significant to a project include, but are not limited to:
- Collaborations with investigators at a foreign site anticipated to result in co-authorship;
- Use of facilities or instrumentation at a foreign site; or
- Receipt of financial support or resources from a foreign entity.
In some cases, it may be difficult to tell whether a certain activity is a foreign component, other support, or neither. In general, if an activity does not meet the definition of foreign component because all research is being conducted within the U.S., but there is a non-U.S. resource that supports the researcher or his/her research endeavors, it must be disclosed as other support.
Current and Pending Support – For most agencies, the term “current and pending support” refers to the types of “other support” described above for NIH. NSF is currently working to develop an electronic format for disclosure of current and pending support information and has proposed revisions to its Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) to clarify the reporting requirements for current and pending support. In the meantime, researchers must use NSF’s current and pending support form loaded into FastLane to disclose other support. For other agencies, including DOE and DOD, investigators should list foreign activity with the “current and pending support” construct.
Disclosing Foreign Affiliations in Biosketch – As part of the national discussion of inappropriate foreign influence on U.S. research, many federal agencies, including NIH and NSF, have cited foreign talent recruitment programs as potential threats to the U.S. research community. Participation in foreign talent recruitment programs often involves academic or research affiliations with foreign institutions, financial or other in-kind support for a U.S. researcher’s program, and commitments of time and resources from the U.S. researcher. As such, both the federal sponsors and UofSC require disclosure of participation in foreign talent recruitment programs. Additionally, activities like those described above but not labeled as a foreign talent recruitment program must be disclosed (e.g., affiliations or appointments at another institution, whether remuneration is received, and whether full-time, part-time, or voluntary—including adjunct, visiting, or honorary).
Researchers should include all affiliations—foreign and domestic—on their Biosketch. Some affiliations or participation in foreign talent recruitment programs may also meet the definition of other support. If so, researchers should disclose the activity as described in the “current and pending” section above.
Prior to accepting any affiliation with another institution that requires a commitment of time or resources, and irrespective of whether the affiliation is compensated or not, UofSC faculty must disclose the activity to their department leadership and receive approval. This includes participation in foreign talent recruitment programs or other affiliations/appointments at another institution.
NSF Dear Colleague Letter: https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2019/nsf19200/research_protection.jsp