Florida State University is committed to facilitating open and publicly accessible research and scholarly activities, both domestically and internationally. In some instances, however, restrictions must be placed on such activity in the interest of national security. Issues surrounding foreign influence and international activities in federally funded research has been an evolving topic, one for which the U.S. Government has shown growing concern.
Faculty may engage in international research activities without restriction (unless those activities are prohibited by federal law or agency regulations), as long as all activities are disclosed according to FSU policy, federal law, or agency regulations.
Recent communications from federal agencies, such as NIH, have made it clear that there is increased scrutiny from our research sponsors regarding our relationships with foreign entities. A number of investigators, here and at other universities, have asked for guidelines in this area. Below is guidance, and a non-exhaustive set of examples, that we hope will clarify FSU's position on various activities relating to foreign entities.
The Foreign Government Talent Recruitment (FGTRP) Form has been updated to no longer require a signature from the Office of Research Compliance Programs if the candidate/employee checks the box beside, “NO, I am not currently participating in a Foreign Government Talent Recruitment Program (FGTRP), nor have I participated in a FGTRP in the last 24 months.” The HR forms website will be updated to link to the new form; in the meanwhile, you may access the new form here.
Foreign Government Talent Recruitment (FGTRP) Form - New August 2022
What is a foreign “talents” program?
The Department of Energy issued Order 486.1, on June 7, 2019, that describes talents programs as follows:
In general, such programs include any foreign-state-sponsored attempt to acquire U.S. scientific-funded research or technology 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. These recruitment programs are often part of broader whole-of-government strategies to reduce costs associated with basic research while focusing investment on military development or dominance in emerging technology sectors.
Distinguishing features of a foreign government talent recruitment program covered by this Order include:
(1) Compensation provided by the foreign state to the targeted individual in exchange for the individual transferring their knowledge and expertise to the foreign country. The compensation can take several forms, such as cash, research funding, honorific titles, career advancement opportunities, promised future compensation, or other types of remuneration or consideration.
(2) Recruitment in this context refers to the foreign-state-sponsor’s active engagement in attracting the targeted individual to join the foreign sponsored program and transfer their knowledge and expertise to the foreign state. The targeted individual may be employed and located in the U.S., or in the foreign state. Recruitment would not necessarily include any invitation for engagement extended by the foreign state, for example, an invitation to attend or present work at an international conference. Many, but not all, programs aim to incentivize the targeted individual to physically relocate to the foreign state. Of particular concern are those programs that allow for continued employment at U.S. research facilities or receipt of DOE research funds while concurrently receiving compensation from the foreign state.
How does this affect me and FSU?
Association with a Talents Program can lead to ineligibility to receive Federal funding for your research. Currently there is no due process to challenge such a determination or a limit to the time interval over which it is imposed. Past associations may also be concerning to the US Government.
Is there an official list of Talents Programs?
No. Some have been identified but for the most part we are left to our own judgement. Note that entities can frequently change their names once they are identified on a list.
Many, but not all, programs aim to incentivize the targeted individual to physically relocate to the foreign state. Of particular concern are those programs that allow for continued employment at U.S. research facilities or receipt of US Federal research funds while concurrently receiving compensation from the foreign state. These programs also focus on individual researchers instead of project/subject matter, and may provide remuneration (salary, stipend, research funding, etc.) significantly above “market” for expected activities. If something appears to be too good to be true, you should question it.
Are such programs initiated by a particular country?
Any country can run a talents program. Most of the US Government’s attention has been focused on programs originating in China, but talents programs have been identified from India and other nations.
What should you do if you suspect you have been contacted by or have inadvertently become associated with a Foreign Government Talent Recruitment Program?
Contact the FSU’s Director of Research Compliance at firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
NIH new website on Foreign Interference (September 16, 2022). NIH and the biomedical research enterprise have a long history of international collaborations with rules of engagement that allow science to advance while assuring honesty, transparency, integrity, fair merit-based competition, and protection of intellectual capital and proprietary information. These rules of engagement also are designed to limit bias in the design, conduct, and reporting of NIH-supported research. A new NIH website describes actions that NIH, institutions, and researchers can take to protect against inappropriate foreign interference. The principles described here align with those announced by the White House Office and Science and Technology Policy in June 2020 and in the NSPM-33 implementation guidance.
The Director of the NIH, Francis Collins, issued a “Foreign Influence Letter to Grantees,” and testified to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee regarding concerns about systematic programs of foreign influence in U.S. research. Dr. Collins reminded the research community that they are required to “disclose all forms of other support and financial interest, including support coming from foreign governments or other foreign entities…in accordance with the NIH Grants Policy Statement, [on] all applications and progress reports (NOT-OD-18-160)” and indicated that NIH’s Office of Extramural Research (OER) will be providing additional information in the future.
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
On June 1, 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy issued DOE Release No. FAL 2022-04, which contains information and guidance regarding current and pending support disclosures. See the FALL here.
DOE issued a memo on January 31, 2019, stating that they would require disclosure of participation in foreign-talent recruitment programs. In addition, on June 7th, 2019, the DOE issued a directive regarding foreign influence and talent recruitment programs, which states, in part, that the DOE is also prohibiting those working under a DOE contract from participating in a foreign talent recruitment program. According to DOE: “DOE personnel will be subject to limitations, including prohibitions on their ability currently or in the future to participate in foreign talent recruitment programs of countries determined sensitive by DOE while employed by DOE, or performing work within the scope of a DOE contract. These limitations also will apply to recipients of financial assistance (e.g., grants or cooperative agreements).” Neither the list of sensitive countries nor the list of emerging research areas and technologies comprising the S&T Risk Matrix have been publicly released. Please refer to the directive for additional information and definitions about foreign talent recruitment program.
U.S. Department of Defense (DOD)
DOD issued a memo on March 20, 2019 outlining disclosure requirements for all key personnel listed on research and research-related educational activities supported by DOD grants and contracts.
National Science Foundation (NSF)
NSF issued a statement on “Security and Science” dated October 23, 2018, stating that U.S. universities must “embrace transparency and rigorously adhere to conflict of interest and conflict of commitment policies.”
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
NASA has had restrictions for quite some time on involvement of foreign nationals and the use of 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.”
U.S. Department of Education (DOED)
The Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, and 20 U.S. Code 1011f, requires an institution of postsecondary education to file a disclosure report with the Secretary on January 31 or July 31 of each year, containing certain information about gifts received from or contracts entered into with foreign sources or about ownership or control of the institution by a foreign source. Gifts and contracts that are to be reported are those of $250,000 or more in value, considered alone or in combination with all of the institution's other gifts from or contracts with the same foreign source within a calendar year.
Several organizations have concerns with recent proposed amendments to Section 117 of the Higher Education Act. Links are provided below:
Office of Science and Technology (OSTP)
OSTP has provided an overview of other agencies in the “OSTP Letter to the Research Community on Undue Foreign Influence.”
Enhancing the Security and Integrity of America’s Research Enterprise PowerPoint June 2020
With the heightened sensitivity on these issues nationally, FSU’s Office of Research Compliance Programs (ORCP) wants to remind the members of our research community of their obligations to report on international research and scholarly activities. While most international collaborations and other forms of global engagement are acceptable and encouraged, University members are urged to err on the side of transparency. The following existing institutional expectations and practices support transparency and accountability:
Financial Conflicts of Interest
- A University researcher who has a personal financial interest that may bias or appear to bias their research, could have a research related financial conflict of interest. Florida law, federal research rules, and University policy define and regulate these conflicts. No distinction is made between domestic and foreign financial interests with regard to these requirements. For more information, visit the Office of Research Compliance Programs' Conflict of Interest website. Acceptance of gifts, monetary awards, and honoraria by University faculty and staff are also governed by financial conflict of interest and, when permitted, must be disclosed. Gifts to the University that are subsequently distributed to support an individual’s professional activities, e.g., endowed chairs, that follow standard institutional process need not be disclosed by the individual.
Annual Performance Evaluations
- Faculty members are asked to provide a report of evidence of their performance regarding their teaching, research or creative activities, service, and other University duties for the period being evaluated. The annual report should identify all international activities and engagements, whether or not funded, such as honorary appointments, consulting activities , serving on a student advisory committee, corporate board or government advisory committees, and involvement with or participation in a talent development program.
NIH Foreign Components Requirements
- Under the NIH Grants Policy Statement, “foreign components” must be disclosed on proposals, progress reports, and final technical reports. Adding a foreign component or transferring substantive programmatic work from a domestic recipient to a foreign component requires prior approval from NIH. A “foreign component” is defined as 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. Other federal and non-federal sponsors may have similar requirements. Faculty should work with the school or departmental research administration staff or Sponsored Research Administration to comply with all sponsor requirements.
Restricted Party Screening
- Restricted party screening is a best practice that should be conducted prior to investing significant time or effort in developing collaborations or agreements with new international entities. Restricted party screening identifies entities and individuals subject to us export control restrictions, denial or debarment orders, sanction programs, as well as state and federal non-procurement programs. Restricted party screening is performed as part of normal business processes for export and sanction assessments, new vendor registration, risk assessment of new sponsors, and to review international visitors. Additional information is available here.
Current and Pending Support and Biosketches
- FSU researchers whose research is supported with federal funding should update and maintain their current and pending support documentation. Make sure to include all sources of support—foreign or domestic, including scholarships or fellowships. When in doubt, err on the side of inclusion in current and pending support documentation and your biosketch. Be cognizant of all sponsor requirements and follow all directions for content and format.
Outside Activity Reporting
Florida State University uses the Conflict Administration Management System (CAMS) to report, approve, and manage outside activity/employment, as well as financial disclosures for employees at Florida State. The system is also used to identify and manage conflicts of interest within research activities and has components which integrate with the RAMP Grants and RAMP IRB modules. See the CAMS Project website for more information.
Council on Governmental Relations: Commentary on Disclosing Other Support Resources in Research Funded by the National Institute of Health
The following is a list of resources and reporting requirements:
- The Office of Research Compliance Program’s (ORCP) Conflict of Interest website, which requires:
- Disclosure of all outside professional activities and financial relationships, whether compensated or uncompensated, through CAMS must include, but are not limited to, all work for, or financial interests in or received from, a foreign institution of higher education or the government or quasi-government organization of another country.
- Compliance with all disclosure requirements related to public sharing of your research. These requirements will be detailed in any applicable management plan regarding a financial conflict of interest in research. However, many sponsors, journals, presentations and other publications also have expanded requirements for disclosure.
- ORCP International Travel Guidance contains information regarding international travel security and travel to high-risk countries, including instructions on:
- Compliance with FSU’s Travel Policy and Procedures, including completion of trip requests in Concur.
- Pre-trip follow-up: after completion of your pre-trip travel request in Concur, you will receive an automated email notification. If you are traveling to a country of concern (embargoed country), the notification will state that ORCP will contact the traveler to discuss the trip and the probability that a license from the government will be required prior to travel.
- Office of Compliance & Ethics requirements for foreign travel reporting: International Travel Guidance Spring 2022.
- Office of Commercialization (OC) website includes policies, FAQs, and guidance information, including the requirement to:
- Disclose intellectual property to the OC in a timely manner, including any that involves international collaborations or involvement.
- ORCP Export controls website for policies, FAQs, and guidance information, which requires:
- Compliance with U.S. export control regulations when your work involves publication restrictions, traveling internationally, participating in international collaborations, restrictions from the sponsor or contract, using proprietary information or software, working with international faculty, staff, or students, hosting international visitors, shipping materials internationally, or engaging in international transactions.
- Compliance with these regulations also require that FSU not host visitors, enter into contracts, do business with, or engage in any activity with entities listed on a United States Government Restricted Party List. ORCP can easily and quickly screen people and entities to ensure they do not appear on any such listing.
Q1: What are the specific concerns regarding “foreign influence” in research?
A1: 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.
Q2: What are “foreign talent recruitment programs?”
A2: The U.S. Department of Energy states that “…such programs include any foreign-state-sponsored attempt to acquire U.S.-funded scientific research through programs run or funded by the government that target scientists, engineers, academics, researchers, and entrepreneurs of all nationalities working or educated in the United States. In exchange for compensation, the person may be asked to share knowledge or expertise with the foreign state or its researchers, students, or other representatives.” (DOE O 486.1, 0/07/19)
Q3: I have been invited to participate in a foreign talent recruitment program. What should I do?
A3: You should not proceed or agree to participate until you have discussed this situation with ORCP. ORCP keeps up to date on developments in federal guidelines and regulations around foreign talent programs, as well as the University Administration’s position on this matter.
Q4: I will have future travel sponsored by a foreign government. Do I need to disclose this?
A4: Yes, all international travel must be booked in Concur, whether or not the University is paying for the travel or another source is providing support. ORCP reviews international travel submissions in Concur and performs necessary screenings and follow up. Disclosures may also be required in proposals to funding agencies, so review agency proposal submission guidelines closely.
Q5: A foreign entity has asked me to be a consultant on a project they are working on. Do I need to disclose this?
A5: Yes, if you become their consultant, you should update your Outside Activity Report. You should also consult with ORCP on conflict of interest and export control concerns. Disclosures may also be required in proposals to funding agencies, so review agency proposal submission guidelines closely.
Q6: A foreign university has proposed an institutional partnership with FSU. Who should I talk to about this?
A6: You should contact the Center for Global Engagement, which supports mission of connecting FSU to the world by reviewing collaborations and helping to streamline the development of international relationships. Disclosures may also be required in proposals to funding agencies, so review agency proposal submission guidelines closely.
Q7: I frequently work with foreign collaborators on my research funded by NASA and DOD. Do I have to disclose these collaborations?
A7: Yes, NASA and DOD have specific clauses that may limit international collaboration. ORCP provides support to Sponsored Research Administration to identify and negotiate such clauses and works with the PI to develop an appropriate management strategy. Contact ORCP prior to starting any international collaboration related to the research or otherwise. Disclosures may also be required in proposals to funding agencies, so review agency proposal submission guidelines closely.
Q8: I have an ownership interest in a foreign company. Do I have to disclose this?
A8: Yes, you should disclose this interest on your Outside Activity Report. You should also consult with ORCP on conflict of interest and export control concerns, and the Office of Commercialization for intellectual property issues. Disclosures may also be required in proposals to funding agencies, so review agency proposal submission guidelines closely.
Q9: I want to host a foreign visiting scholar to work in my lab for the summer. What do I need to do to accomplish this?
A9: Please follow FSU’s policy and procedures concerning inviting visiting scholar. This information can be found at https://fda.fsu.edu/faculty-employment/appointments/procedures-for-inviting-an-unpaid-visiting-scholar-researcher. Also, see the answer to Q10.
Q10: I have an unpaid researcher or student working in my lab. How should I disclose this?
A10: Scholars, researchers and students working in your lab with direct support from any organization other than FSU (including those who identify as “self-funded”) must be listed on your Other Support or Current & Pending Support Documents (the label differs between sponsors). While the format or template of each of these documents e may differ, they generally require the following information. Suggested guidance for each field is below:
- Project Number: If applicable, include a code or identifier for the work.
- Source of Support: Identify the entity that is providing the support for the researcher to be at FSU. This may be their home institution, their home government, a non-profit foundation, or self-funded.
- Major Goals: Provide a brief statement of the program or projects on which they are working.
- Dates of Approved/Proposed Project: Indicate the inclusive dates of the time frame in which they will be working in your lab.
- Annual Direct Costs: Estimate an annual value of the time to your lab. For example, a student supported by their home country would be valued at the same rate as a University supported GA salary + fringe + tuition.
- Percent Effort/Person Months: As you are not required to provide any additional effort for oversight as allowable under presidential memorandum M-01-06, you may report 0 effort months.
Anyone with questions about foreign influence or international research should contact Diana Key, Office of Research Compliance Programs, email@example.com or (850) 644-8648.