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Safeguarding Research Activity:
Ensuring Transparency, Integrity, and Reciprocity

 

Note: This information and guideline portal will be updated continuously as we continue to get more information. (Last Updated June 2, 2021)

Disclosure Information

Federal agencies have communicated significant concerns around protecting the American research enterprise from undue foreign influence. While foreign influence has not been completely defined by the federal government, its core concerns involve maintaining the United States’ economic competitiveness and national security.

The FBI and other federal government agencies have expressed concern that some foreign actors, particularly foreign state adversaries, are seeking to acquire U.S. academic research and information illicitly or illegitimately in order to advance their scientific, economic, and military development goals through the exploitation of the culture of collaboration and openness on university campuses.

More specifically, NIH has identified three areas of concern:  diversion of intellectual property; peer reviewers inappropriately sharing confidential information on grant applications; and failure of researchers at NIH-funded U.S. institutions to disclose substantial resources from other organizations, including foreign governments.

Even though most collaborations are acceptable and encouraged, based on current expectations by the federal agencies, if in doubt on whether to disclose, sponsoring agencies encourage disclosure.

This varies by federal sponsor, but generally

  • Appointments to external entities (whether paid, unpaid, adjunct, voluntary, or honorific) should be disclosed in your biosketch;
  • Resource provisions made available to a researcher in support of, or related to, all your research endeavors, regardless of whether they have monetary value, are disclosed, depending on sponsor, in ‘other support’ or ‘current and pending support’ or ‘Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources’ documents, either at time of proposal or in annual reports;
  • Performance of any significant scientific element or segment of a project outside the United States, either by the recipient or by a researcher employed by a foreign organization, regardless of whether grant funds are expended, should be disclosed in the proposal or by an approval request to the federal funding agency prior to the initiation of the engagements;

If you have any questions on how to disclose a foreign collaboration please contact your sponsored program officer.

It depends on the level of activity of the foreign author:

If the author performed a limited part of the work (e.g. ran some statistics), and the paper does not acknowledge any foreign funding, you should be prepared to answer a question regarding the author’s role but don’t need to do anything else.

If the foreign author acknowledges funding for his or her work limited work, that funding should be included as Current and Pending Support or Other Support for the PI in proposals and progress reports

If the work done by the foreign author is significant then it constitutes a Foreign Component, which requires prior approval by NIH. If the foreign collaboration was described in the funded proposal, it is already approved. If it was not in the proposal, prior approval must be requested from the grants management official before initiating the collaboration.

Yes. All faculty are required to disclose. Outside activities require pre-approval by your unit/department, and disclosure to sponsors. This includes work during off-duty periods. Disclosure is necessary because it may affect how a sponsor views your other commitments relative to performing work for them. When in doubt, disclose the engagement to your College and to your sponsor.

You must disclose any foreign students, postdoctoral candidates, and other trainees including visiting scholars on sponsored research.  If they are performing work outside the United States, this creates a Foreign Component. If they are working in the United States but receiving any support from a foreign entity, this constitutes ‘Other Support.’  This disclosure also includes students who are ‘volunteers’ (i.e., who are not UNM enrolled students but are foreign students here in a voluntary capacity (Other Support) or are students in another country that are provided to a UNM researcher to do work there (Foreign Component)).

You do not need to disclose unless they are conducting research in a foreign country, which would require sponsor approval as a Foreign Component. If they are being paid by someone other than UNM, or are volunteers, that would be reportable as Other Support and should be reported as normally required by the sponsor. For example, for NIH that would be in the next RPPR or final technical report if funding is ending.

NSF guidance in the 2020 version of the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) guide is clarified to make clear that all appointments and resources available to a researcher in support of their research efforts must be disclosed.

These may be disclosed on the proposal cover page, in the “International Activities Country Names” box, and an explanation/justification must be provided in the project description. Substantial collaborations not included in the budget should be described in the Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources section of the proposal.

Appointments at a foreign entity should be disclosed in the biosketch and include any titled academic, professional, or institutional position whether or not remuneration is received, and whether full-time, part-time, or voluntary (including adjunct, visiting, or honorary).

Current and pending support information must be provided through use of an NSF-approved format for each individual designated as senior personnel on the proposal. Current and pending support includes all resources made available to an individual in support of, and/or related to, all of his/her research efforts, regardless of whether or not they have monetary value.

Current and pending support also includes in-kind contributions (such as office/laboratory space, equipment, supplies, employees, students). In-kind contributions not intended for use on the project/proposal being proposed also must be reported.

Honoraria are routinely provided at international conferences for invited speakers, etc., and Faculty need to comply with IRS regulations in reporting this on their taxes. If your travel is being paid for by a foreign source, report any large honoraria (>$5k), especially if it is from China or some other near peer competitor.  Faculty should disclose these as part of their disclosure when applying for federal awards.   https://handbook.unm.edu/c130/

Other Support

I am a principal investigator on a federal award to a domestic university and have an unpaid appointment at a foreign university. At the foreign site I have access to lab space, research materials, and staff. Should I report this as other support?

Yes, this appointment must be reported as Other Support. While monetary compensation is not received, the lab space, materials, and staff are resources provided in support of and/or related to the research efforts. Other payments, such as travel or living expenses must also be reported. NIH, NSF, and DoD require applicants to list all positions and scientific appointments, both domestic and foreign, that are held by senior/key personnel. This includes affiliations with foreign entities or governments, such as titled academic, professional, or institutional appointments, whether or not remuneration is received, and whether full-time, part-time, or voluntary (including adjunct, visiting, or honorary)

A researcher at my institution has a 9-month appointment. S/he spends two months at a University outside of the United States during the summer conducting research under a foreign award. Does this count as other support?

Yes, this would be considered Other Support. Available resources in support of and/or related to an investigator’s research endeavors should be disclosed, even if they relate to work that is performed outside of a researcher’s appointment period.

What should I do if I'm not sure if something needs to be included as other support?

Err on the side of disclosure. Federal agencies require complete and accurate reporting of all sources of research support, financial interests and affiliations, both foreign and domestic. If you have any questions about whether something should be reported, please contact the Program Officer.

What if NIH determines that an institution is not complying with NIH policies for transparency and disclosure of all other support?

NIH takes the issue of protecting the integrity of U.S. biomedical research seriously. If noncompliance is identified, potential action by NIH may include withdrawing approval of the Program Director/Principal Investigator or other researchers contributing to the NIH award, imposing specific award conditions, disallowing costs, withholding future awards including the possibility of suspending or terminating the award, per NIH Grants Policy Statement, Section 8.5.

I have been invited to present at an International Conference in a country that is on the U.S Sanction List. Can I do this?

Presenting at an international conference in a U.S. sanctioned country may be viewed as providing a prohibited “service” under U.S. sanctions regulations. You should consult with the Office of Export Control prior to presenting to determine if a license is required.

Generally, any presentation to an international audience should be limited to the following:
• information that is already published;
• information already in the public domain; and/or
• information consistent with that conveyed by instruction in catalog courses and associated teaching laboratories at U.S. institutions of higher education.

I am collaborating with a colleague abroad and would like to send some data to my collaborator. What should I do?

Depending on the nature of the data and the related technology, exchange of data with foreign collaborators may require a license. Please contact the Office of Export Control who can review the data and the country of the collaborator to determine whether there are any restrictions, or if a license is required.

A Data Use Agreement may also be needed to facilitate the transfer of data to a collaborator. Please reach out to the Office of Sponsored Projects for additional assistance with Data Use Agreements.

Can I collaborate with an individual or entity (e.g University or Company) included on the specially designated National (SDN) List

It depends on the nature of the collaboration and the underlying activities. Specific authorization in the form of a license from the U.S. government may be required. It may be possible to secure a license to allow for such a collaboration in certain limited circumstances (e.g. when the reason for the individual or entity’s inclusion on the list is unrelated to the proposed collaboration). However, the license must be secured before any such collaboration is initiated and any restrictions outlined in the license must be strictly followed. Please contact the Office of Export for assistance.

I plan to host a webinar/web conference on my research to be shared internationally. What do I need to know?

Information released at an open conference, meeting or webinar is considered published and excluded from certain controls. “Open” means that all technically qualified members of the public are eligible to attend, and attendees are permitted to take notes or otherwise make a personal record (not necessarily a recording) of the proceedings and presentations. An “open” conference can charge a registration fee reasonably related to cost, and can limit actual attendance, as long as attendees either are the first who have applied or are selected on the basis of relevant scientific or technical competence, experience, or responsibility. However, certain sensitive information cannot be shared via open conference or webinar. Evaluation is case-specific. Thus, it is recommended that you contact the Office of Export Control to review your circumstances.

How do I transfer equipment out of the United States?

An export license may be required to ship or hand-carry items or equipment out of the U.S. The need for a license is dependent upon the nature of the equipment, as well as the end-use, recipient, and destination of the equipment. Additionally, even temporary export of equipment to some locations may incur customs tax obligations. Due to complexities of the requirements you should consult the Office of Export Control for assistance regarding shipping or traveling with equipment internationally.

Foreign Components (NIH Specific)

No, the concept of “Foreign Component” is specific to NIH as defined here https://grants.nih.gov/grants/policy/nihgps_2013/nihgps_ch16.htm

A foreign component is the performance of a significant scientific element of the NIH-supported project outside of the United States. Once a recipient determines that a portion of the project will be conducted outside of the U.S., the recipient then will need to determine if the activities are considered significant. If both criteria are met, then there is a foreign component.

When making determinations about significance, the element of the project that is being conducted outside of the United States should be evaluated within the context of the project as a whole. Some examples of activities that may be considered a significant element of the 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
• Receipt of financial support or resources from a foreign entity

Generally, no. If you have concerns please contact Office of Sponsored Projects for clarification.

This is unique to each situation and depends upon specific details surrounding a particular activity. For instance, one model could be that a PI on an NIH grant may have an appointment and a lab at a foreign university. The research being done at the foreign lab is unrelated to the PI’s NIH project. This would not qualify as a foreign component of the NIH research, as the foreign work is not part of the NIH-funded project. However, it is a resource made available to the researcher in support of their research. Therefore, it must be reported as Other Support.

NIH defines a foreign institution as an organization located in a country other than the United States and its territories that is subject to the laws of that country, regardless of the citizenship of the proposed Program Director/Principal Investigator.

In general, no. The first step in determining whether research constitutes a foreign component is to evaluate whether a portion of the research is being conducted outside of the United States. In this case, since all of the work is being conducted in the US, there would be no foreign component. However, this must be reported as Other Support. All in-kind resources, which includes visitors or employees who are paid directly by outside resources, should be disclosed as Other Support.

Reporting Conflicts of Interest (FCOI)

There has not been any changes to federal COI mandates to date.  NIH/PHS issued a clarification that researchers are expected to disclose, among other things, their  foreign affiliations with, and activities at, foreign non-profit research centers and public institutes and entities, even if they are exempt from disclosing the same type of affiliations/activities for domestic non-profit and public entities.  If you have any questions on COI disclosures, please contact Office of Research & Compliance COI unit at (505) 277-1045 or coiresearch@unm.edu

Integrity of Peer Review Process

Officially-designated members include appointed members, temporary ad hoc members, the Scientific Review Officer, and NIH staff with a need to know. Applications, proposals, and confidential meeting materials cannot be shared with anyone who is not a member of the study section where those documents and information are being reviewed.

If NIH determines that you committed a bona fide breach of confidentiality in the peer review process, they could contact you and your institution, and ask you to step down from an appointed term of service on a study section. Depending on the severity of the breach, the NIH may refer the matter to the NIH Office of Management Assessment and possibly to the Office of the Inspector General in the Department of Health and Human Services, which could result in further administrative actions such as debarment or even criminal penalties. If the matter is referred to these authorities, the NIH would be unlikely to contact you or your institution first, as it now involves possible criminal violations.

Information about possible breaches of confidentiality come to the NIH in numerous ways. Often, an applicant will report that data, figures or text from his or her grant application appears in a publication authored by a reviewer on the panel where the application was reviewed. Additionally, this may also constitute research misconduct in the form of plagiarism.

NIH sometimes learn about breaches of confidentiality from other reviewers, colleagues and students of reviewers, or even members of the media. NIH also has internal controls to monitor access to NIH computer systems.

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