Guidance for Managing International Relationships and Activities

There is a growing concern within the U.S. Government that foreign state actors are aggressively targeting U.S. institutions of higher education in an effort to unduly influence and capitalize on U.S.-funded research. This type of foreign influence activity poses a grave threat to the economic and national security of our country. In an effort to combat this threat, several government funding agencies have issued clarifying statements reminding universities and research institutions of their reporting responsibilities under existing funding agency policies (see below). Additional policies and regulations aimed at further reducing the risks related to some international engagements have also been implemented.

Clemson University engages in research both domestically and globally to support its educational mission to generate, preserve, communicate and apply knowledge for the benefit of the world. These research engagements are managed with a focus on ethics and integrity. To preserve this focus on ethics and integrity, it is incumbent upon the Clemson community to be fully cognizant of and in compliance with all disclosure and reporting requirements of the relevant sponsor.

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)

    NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins, issued a statement in August of 2018 identifying three areas of concern related to inappropriate foreign efforts to influence NIH-supported research activities. The concerns include:

    1. Diversion of intellectual property (IP) in grant applications or produced by NIH-supported biomedical research to other entities, including other countries;
    2. Sharing of confidential information on grant applications by NIH peer reviewers with others, including foreign entities, or otherwise attempting to influence funding decisions; and
    3. Failure by some researchers working at NIH-funded institutions in the U.S. to disclose substantial resources from other organizations, including foreign governments, which threatens to distort decisions about the appropriate use of NIH funds.

    NIH has longstanding policies to address each of these concerns and it is the responsibility of both the investigator and the institution to ensure compliance with these policies. As a reminder:

    1. NIH NOT-OD-18-233 requires that “Recipients of NIH-funded research awards must report all inventions that result from NIH-funded projects.” This requirement arises from the Bayh-Dole Act and its implementing regulations. This reporting requirement can be satisfied by submitting an intellectual property disclosure to the Clemson University Research Foundation through the inventor portal.
    2. NIH NOT-OD-14-069 and NIH NOT-OD-13-010 describe NIH policies and peer-reviewer requirements for managing actual and perceived conflicts of interest in the peer-review process. According to the NIH Conflict of Interest Rules, “The NIH peer review system relies on the professionalism of each reviewer to identify any conflict of interest (COI) or apparent COI that may affect or appear to affect the integrity of the NIH peer review process.” This disclosure does not flow through the University and must be managed independently by the reviewer.
    3. NIH NOT-OD-19-114 and NIH NOT-OD-18-160 remind the research community of their other support, foreign components, and financial conflict of interest (fCOI) reporting requirements. NIH has also provided a Frequently Asked Questions Document and additional guidance related to these topics. Disclosures must be entered through InfoEd at the time your proposal is submitted. Your college pre-award office can assist. For any changes that need to be disclosed after the award as been made, please contact Grants and Contracts Administration or the Office of Conflict of Interest for assistance. Financial conflicts of interest (fCOI) must be disclosed through InfoEd annually or within 60 days of any subsequently identified fCOI.
  • National Science Foundation (NSF)

    In a “Dear Colleague Letter” dated July 11, 2019, NSF Director Dr. France Córdova also expressed concerns about the risks presented by improper foreign influence, particularly foreign government talent recruitment programs described as “foreign state-sponsored attempts to acquire U.S. funded scientific research through foreign government run or funded recruitment programs that target scientists, engineers, academics, researchers, and entrepreneurs of all nationalities working or educated in the United States.”

    NSF disclosure requirements are roughly analogous to NIH disclosure requirements and, like the NIH requirements, are a longstanding part of the proposal process. These disclosure requirements include:

    1. A requirement for senior project personnel on proposals to disclose all sources of support, both domestic and foreign;
    2. A requirement for senior project personnel to disclose all collaborators and other affiliations for the 48 months preceding proposal submission;
    3. A requirement for senior project personnel to disclose all international activities related to the project being proposed; and
    4. A requirement for an institutional conflict of interest policy that requires investigators to disclose all significant financial interests, a) that would reasonably appear to be affected by the research, or b) in entities whose financial interests would reasonably appear to affected by such activities.
    These requirements are broadly drafted. In order to remain compliant, disclosure should be the default. Disclosures must be entered through InfoEd at the time your proposal is submitted. Your college pre-award office can assist. For any changes that need to be disclosed after the award as been made, please contact the Grants and Contracts Administration or the Office of Conflict of Interest for assistance.
  • Department of Defense (DoD)

    In a memo dated March 20, 2019, DoD provides guidance for information required to be disclosed at proposal submission in grants, cooperative agreements, Technology Investment Agreements and other non-procurement transactions. Section 1286 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2019, requires the Secretary of Defense to establish an initiative to work with academic institutions who perform defense research and engineering activities in order to protect a wide variety of information relevant to national security and to limit undue foreign influence. In furtherance of this requirement, DoD Notices of Funding Opportunities (NFOs) for research and research-related activities now include an information disclosure requirement for all key personnel. The information being requested includes sponsor name and address, project title and objective, funding amount, period of performance, and percentage of time devoted, for all current and future support, regardless of the source. This information must be provided through InfoEd at the time of proposal submission using SF 424 Research and Related (R&R).

    DoD is also an active participant in the Office of Science and Technology (OSTP)-led Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE). The JCORE subcommittee on Research Security is charged with coordinating four lines of Federal effort; including coordinating outreach and engagement; disclosure requirements for participation in federally funded research; best practices for academic research institutions; and methods for identification, assessment, and management of risk. These efforts will help to develop common standards for identifying and adjudicating conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment and to clarify consequences for failing to make requested disclosures. Questions may be addressed to Office of Export Compliance and Research Security.

  • Department of Energy (DOE)

    DOE has also taken steps to address foreign influence concerns by prohibiting DOE employees and the employees of DOE contractors from participating in foreign talent recruitment programs while performing work within the scope of a DoE contract. The stated goal is to limit the unauthorized transfer of scientific and technical information to foreign government entities. DOE provides a definition of “Foreign Government Talent Recruitment Program” in DOE Order 4861. Questions may be addressed to the Office of Export Compliance and Research Security.

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    As a reminder, Public Law 112-10 and Public Law 112-55 restrict NASA from entering into or funding any grant or cooperative agreement of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company, at the prime recipient level or at any sub-recipient level, whether the bilateral involvement is funded or performed under a no-exchange of funds arrangement. This restriction applies to all funds appropriated on or after April 25, 2011. As with the NIH and NSF requirements, this limitation has been in existence for several years but is often overlooked. When submitting a proposal to NASA, you must confirm in InfoEd that you understand and agree to comply with this requirement. Continued compliance with this requirement will be a requirement of any awards made by NASA. NASA has provided the following guidance. Questions may be addressed to the Office of Export Compliance and Research Security

Potential Questions

This is intended to be a non-exhaustive list of potential issues that may arise. The best course of action tends to be very fact specific and may require further communication with the appropriate government agency. When there is any doubt, the best course of action is to disclose as described in the previous sections.

The reporting and management of international relationships and funding requires the coordinated efforts of our faculty and staff with the offices of Export Compliance and Research Security, Conflicts of Interest, Sponsored Programs, and Grants and Contract Administration. For general assistance, please contact the Office of Export Compliance and Research Security at exportcontrol@clemson.edu with any questions.