International Relationships, Foreign Components and Sponsored Programs
UConn encourages international collaborations and the OVPR strongly urges investigators to err on the side of transparency in disclosing these collaborations to the University and Sponsors.
- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a Notice on March 30, 2018, reminding research institutions that PIs, sub-awardees and co-PIs must disclose all financial interests received from higher education or governmental institutions in countries outside the United States (NOT-OD-18-160). NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins also sent a memo to institutions on Aug. 20, 2018, stating that the failure to properly disclose foreign relationships threatened to distort decision-making about the use of NIH funds.
- The Department of Defense
- 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 … ”
- Memorandum from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense dated October 10, 2019 which states that “the challenge of protecting the integrity of our research enterprise is a national priority.” The letter lays out DoD’s steps to date to “limit undue influence by countries that desire to exploit DoD research, science and technology, and innovation enterprise through foreign talent programs and other means” and steps DoD plans to pursue, and calls for a dynamic, Government wide, partnership, “No laboratory, university, industry partner, or Government agency can address the full scope of this challenge alone, and solutions to this problem can only result from a dynamic partnership between our public and private sectors.”
- Memorandum titled “Actions for the Protection of Intellectual Property, Controlled Information, Key Personnel and Critical Technologies” dated March 20, 2019. Directing for all new DoD Notices of Funding Opportunities related to research and research-related educational activities include requirements that “proposer submit additional Current and Active support information for all key personnel, whether or not the individuals are funded by the DoD.
- The National Science Board issued a statement on “Security and Science” dated October 23, 2018, stating that US universities must “embrace transparency and rigorously adhere to conflict of interest and conflict of commitment policies.”
- The National Science Foundation, issued a letter on July 11 from the NSF Director to colleagues on “Research Protection” related to other support, financial conflicts of interest and foreign components (NSF 19-200).
- The Department of Energy issued a notification on February 1, 2019, stating that DOE plans to implement a policy, which will mandate that “federal and contractor personnel fully disclose and, as necessary, terminate affiliations with foreign government-supported talent recruitment programs.”
- 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 restrictions, contract restrictions).
Foreign components of federally funded research should be disclosed in proposals, progress reports, and final technical reports. Under the NIH Grants Policy Statement, a Foreign Component is defined as “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”. The definition of “foreign component” (which can be found here) may include a large number of collaborative activities, including “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.” Other sponsors have similar requirements to disclose foreign components.
NIH Policy on Foreign Component (updated 7/15/19)
NIH requires recipients to determine whether activities it supports include a foreign component, defined as the existence of any “significant scientific element or segment of a project” outside of the United States, in other words:
- performance of work by a researcher or recipient in a foreign location, whether or not NIH grant funds are expended and/or
- performance of work by a researcher in a foreign location employed or paid for by a foreign organization, whether or not NIH grant funds are expended.
- If 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. See NIH FAQs on Other Support and Foreign Components. The addition of a foreign component to an ongoing NIH grant continues to require NIH prior approval, as outlined in the NIHGPS (Section 8.1.2) Prior Approval Requirements.
- If an activity does not meet the definition of foreign component because all research is being conducted within the United States, but there is a non-U.S. resource that supports the research of an investigator and/or researcher, it must be reported as other support.For example, if a PD/PI of an NIH-funded grant has a collaborator outside of the U.S. who performs experiments in support of the PD/PI’s NIH-funded project, this would constitute a foreign component, regardless of whether the foreign collaborator receives funding from the PD/PI’s grant. Additional funding from a foreign source for the NIH-supported research of a PD/PI at a U.S. institution would not constitute a foreign component but would necessitate reporting as other support.
- Foreign Other support must be disclosed to the NIH in advance by including it in the Just-in-Time Other Support submission on a new or renewal award, or updated in the annual RPPR, or submitted by letter to the awarding office and thereafter included in the RPPR.
- Foreign Components applies to NIH work scope performed in a foreign location, either funded by the NIH grant or by other sources, domestic or foreign.
Also see NIH’s “Protecting U.S. Biomedical Intellectual Innovation”
The University’s Consulting Policy requires prior approval of any remuneration, compensation, honorarium, stipends, non-university salary, or other similar payments for providing consulting, advice, services, support or other similar activities from any source, including foreign entities or persons. The University’s Financial Conflicts of Interest in Research Policy requires disclosure of remuneration, compensation, honorarium, stipends, non-university salary, or other similar payments totaling over $5,000 in a 12 month period from a single entity, and any paid or reimbursed travel totaling over $5000 in a 12 month period by a single entity. This include any foreign entity (e.g. governments and institutions) or persons.
Current and Other Support
“Other Support” includes all financial resources, domestic or foreign, available in direct support of a researcher’s research endeavors. Such support should be disclosed on an “Other Support” or “Current & Pending” form. See here for guidance.
It protects everyone’s interests – the Federal government, UConn, individual investigators, and their international collaborators – to have international relationships disclosed and vetted to determine if there are any potential conflict of commitments, duplications of research, and/or diversion of intellectual property in the performance of federally funded research.
In some cases, failure to disclose all relationships could result in the termination of funding for a project and potential ineligibility for future funding. Noncompliance can also threaten not only the funding for individual projects, but overall funding for the University.
How to Get Assistance?
Faculty and investigators who have questions or concerns about disclosure requirements should contact the OVPR for guidance and assistance.
Contact the OVPR
- Paul Hudobenko, Director SPS—UCH (firstname.lastname@example.org)