Foreign Influence in Research

The federal government and several federal sponsors have expressed growing concerns regarding the potential for improper foreign influence over academic research.  Reminders have been issued highlighting the importance of ensuring compliance with existing and new policies and regulations, including those related to full disclosure of foreign engagements, conflicts of interest, and conflicts of commitment. 

Wayne State University encourages international collaborations, while ensuring that our investigators are mindful of the need to be transparent about foreign relationships and activities.  The following information has been compiled to provide guidance and resources to assist researchers with their compliance obligations to federal sponsors.   

The recent message from the funding agencies is clear: investigators and their universities must completely disclose all foreign activities to their federal funding sponsors.

In an effort to support Wayne State researchers and enable them to successfully navigate international relationships and activities, we are sharing guidance on university and federal agency requirements regarding foreign engagements by university faculty.

While federal agencies are continuing to update their guidance on this topic, it is clear that rules require complete disclosure of research activities that involve a foreign entity. Failure to disclose will create significant issues for the investigator and Wayne State. The university will continue to post updates and clarifications as we receive them from our sponsors. We encourage Wayne State researchers to review federal, sponsor and Wayne State policies and procedures, and to thoroughly disclose all domestic and international research-related relationships and activities to federal sponsors in proposals and progress reports, as well as to Wayne State University via the Conflict of Interest disclosure mechanism.   

What International Relationships and Activities Must be Disclosed?

Any potential conflicts of interest – either foreign or domestic – must be identified and managed appropriately in accordance with the Research Policy on Financial Conflict of Interest and Commitment.

 https://research.wayne.edu/integrity/pdf/fcoi-research-policy-revised-7-11-13.pdf

Please note, however, that federal sponsors require broader disclosure. All investigators and key personnel with federal funding must report any activity that supports their research endeavors, regardless of: (1) whether it is an activity conducted within the scope of their Wayne State job (i.e., an "inside activity") or conducted in their private capacity (i.e., an "outside activity"); and (2) whether it takes place within or outside the term of their Wayne State appointment.

Both outside and inside activities must be reported to federal sponsors. Within the context of foreign engagements, the examples below illustrate activities one would disclose to Wayne State University and federal sponsors if performed in a private capacity. If performed within the scope of one's Wayne State position, these activities would only need to be reported to federal sponsors. 

Example Activities

  • Academic, research, or administrative appointments at a foreign institution, even if the appointment is uncompensated. This includes appointments that are full-time, part-time, honorary, adjunct, or voluntary.
  • Any agreement with a foreign university for which the Wayne State faculty member directs students, postdocs, or other personnel affiliated with that university.
  • Any foreign affiliation that is included in any publication by the Wayne State faculty member.
  • Any contractual agreement with a foreign institution, company, or government agency.
  • Any agreement in which foreign funds or other resources are provided to the faculty for activities either at Wayne State University or at a foreign institution.
  • Any agreement or relationship that assigns intellectual property (IP) rights to a foreign institution.
  • Any agreement or relationship with a foreign entity in which the faculty member receives payments for salary, stipends, or living expenses.
  • Any consulting agreements with a foreign entity.
  • Holding a position such as founder, partner, employee, or board member at a company, non-profit, governmental agency, or other foreign entity.
  • Receiving living expenses, honorariums, etc. from a foreign entity.

How to Disclose Foreign Activities to Wayne State University

Wayne State requires that faculty involved in research complete an annual disclosure in accordance with the WSU research policy    https://research.wayne.edu/integrity/pdf/fcoi-research-policy-revised-7-11-13.pdf

Disclosing Foreign Activities to NIH

Any work done outside of the United States must be disclosed in grant proposals, progress reports, and final technical reports. According to the NIH Grants Policy Statement, the definition of a foreign component is as follows:

"The performance of 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. Activities that would meet this definition include, but are not limited to, (1) the involvement of human subjects or animals, (2) extensive foreign travel by recipient project staff for the purpose of data collection, surveying, sampling, and similar activities, or (3) any activity of the recipient that may have an impact on U.S. foreign policy through involvement in the affairs or environment of a foreign country. Examples of other grant-related activities that may be significant are:

  • 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.

Foreign travel for consultation is not considered a foreign component."

Disclosing Foreign Activities to NIH as Other Support

Definition of Other Support – NIH requires senior/key personnel to disclose all resources made available to them in support of or related to all of their research endeavors, regardless of whether or not 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 Wayne State appointment period (e.g., a nine-month faculty member conducts the activity during the summer months) or at a location other than Wayne State University, the researcher must disclose the activity to federal sponsors 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 WSU, another institution, or to the researcher directly;
  • Financial support for laboratory personnel (e.g., students, postdocs, or scholars working in a researcher's lab at WSU and 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 WSU 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 to a WSU researcher by an outside entity.
  • Internal awards provided by WSU.

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 in accordance with the NIHGPS section on "Administrative Requirements—Changes in Project and Budget—NIH Standard Terms of Award."

Disclosing Foreign Activities to NIH as Foreign Component

NIH defines "foreign component" as the performance of 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, whether or not grant funds are expended. There is a 2-part test for determining whether an activity meets the definition of foreign component: (1) whether a portion of the project will be conducted outside of the U.S. and (2) whether that portion of the project is significant. 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; 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. NIH has provided some examples within its FAQs document.

At the time of application submission, if there is an anticipated foreign component, researchers must check yes to question 6 on the "R&R Other Project Information" form "Does this project involve activities outside of the United States or partnerships with international collaborators?" and include a "Foreign Justification" attachment in Field 12 "Other Attachments.". The Foreign Justification should describe the special resources or characteristics of the research project (e.g., human subjects, animals, disease, equipment, and techniques), including the reasons why the facilities or other aspects of the proposed project are more appropriate than a domestic setting.

If researchers want to add a foreign component to an ongoing NIH award, WSU must request and receive prior approval before adding the foreign component. To seek prior approval, researchers must work with the appropriate Grant & Contract Officer in Sponsored Program Administration to follow the process identified in NIHGPS Section 8.1.2

Disclosing Foreign Affiliations to NIH 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 posing a particular threat 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, federal sponsors require disclosure of participation in foreign talent recruitment programs. Additionally, activities similar to those described above but not labeled as a foreign talent recruitment program must be disclosed (e.g., affiliations or appointments at another institution, whether or not 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. Additionally, some affiliations or participation in programs may also meet the definition of Other Support or Foreign Component. If so, researchers should disclose the activity as described above.

Prior to accepting any affiliation with another institution that requires a commitment of time or resources, irrespective of whether the affiliation is compensated or not, the Wayne State University faculty member should 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.

Disclosing Foreign Activities to NSF, DOE, DOD, and Most Other Federal Agencies

For NSF, DOE, DOD, and other non-NIH agencies, the disclosure of foreign activities should be done within Current and Pending and/or the Biosketch.

Disclosing Foreign Activities as Current and Pending Support

For many agencies, the term "current and pending support" refers to the types of "other support" described above for NIH.   NSF requires information on all current and pending support for ongoing projects and proposals. Detailed information about the content is available in the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG), Chapter, II.C.2.h. A set of frequently asked questions related to current and pending support also is available.

Use of an NSF-approved format for current and pending support will be required upon implementation of the PAPPG (NSF 20-1), for all proposals submitted or due on or after June 1, 2020.

For other agencies, including DOE and DOD, investigators should list that 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 posing a particular threat 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 Wayne State University require disclosure of participation in foreign talent recruitment programs. Additionally, activities similar to those described above but not labeled as a foreign talent recruitment program must be disclosed (e.g., affiliations or appointments at another institution, whether or not 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. Additionally, 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, Wayne State faculty need to 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. The applicable University policy can be found here:  https://policies.wayne.edu/academics/03-4-consulting

Frequently Asked Questions

In light of these issues, should WSU researchers decrease the amount of international collaboration that they pursue?

No. Wayne State University remains committed to welcoming researchers, scholars, and students from around the world and cultivating international research collaborations – two essential elements of our mission.  Our goal is to ensure that any such arrangements are disclosed and approved appropriately. 

Should WSU faculty reduce the amount of international travel on WSU business for themselves and their students?

No.  Wayne State University has implemented a number of safeguards surrounding foreign travel to ensure compliance with export control regulations.  These will continue to be updated as guidance on this topic evolves. 

How is Wayne State University keeping track of this issue?

Wayne State University has formed a working group consisting of members from various offices across campus – including Educational Outreach and International Programs, Internal Audit, Research Integrity, Sponsored Program Administration, and Technology Commercialization – to review WSU's current policies and procedures, implement process improvements/changes, and provide guidance on this rapidly evolving topic. As rules change at the federal level and new policies or processes are proposed, those updates will be posted on this site and shared broadly across campus.

What do I do if I have something I need to disclose to Wayne State University or a sponsor that I have never previously reported?

Whether you need to correct an omission or error in a previously submitted proposal or progress report, or you have a new activity to report, please submit a Conflict of Commitment disclosure form and contact the SPA office for assistance with sponsor submission.

I have an unpaid researcher or student working in my lab. How should I disclose this?

Scholars, researchers and students working in your lab with direct support from any organization other than WSU must be listed on your Other Support or Current & Pending Support Documents. 

I have work that is funded through another institution. How do I disclose it?

If you receive funding for performance of work at another institution, that work is considered an outside activity that should be disclosed in accordance with the University's Policy.

https://policies.wayne.edu/academics/03-4-consulting

Additionally, the research funding must also be disclosed in the Other Support or Current and Pending section of proposals and annual reports.

Need Help?

Please feel free to reach out to any of the following individuals with any questions or for further clarity on any specific item that may arise in this area.

Ahmad Ezzeddine – Associate Vice President for Educational Outreach and International Programs ((313) 577-8968, a.m.ezzeddine@wayne.edu)

Phil Cunningham – Associate Vice President for Research Integrity (313-577-9064, philc@wayne.edu)

Gail Ryan –  Associate Vice President for Sponsored Program Administration (313-577-6595, gail.ryan@wayne.edu)

 

Important Resources and Communications on Foreign Influence

1. Reminders of NIH Policies on Other Support and on Policies Related to Financial Conflicts of Interest and Foreign Components - NIH - View here.

2. Statement on Protecting the Integrity of U.S. Biomedical Research - NIH - View here.

3. Dear Colleague Letter: Research Protection (NSF19200) - NSF - View here.

4. Frequently Asked Questions - Other Support and Foreign Components - NIH - View here.

5. Memo from WSU's Vice President for Research and Provost/Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs on International relationships and foreign influence on research and technology development activities - View here.

6. Letter from the Department of Defense on protecting research integrity of U.S. Research - View here.