Guidance for Researchers
The Office of Research is here to assist UCSB researchers with understanding and appropriately responding to this issue of foreign influence. The guidance on this webpage is merely a starting point, and you are encouraged to contact the Director of Research Integrity with any questions or concerns. The UC Office of the President has also created a comprehensive resource on this topic, which contains additional background information and links to relevant UC system policies.
Guidance regarding the types of relationships and activities that UCSB researchers are expected to disclose, as part of existing university and federal funding requirements, are summarized below. While much of the below guidance is broadly applicable to all research faculty, some of the guidance is specific to Federally funded research. Please note that each Federal sponsor has their own specific guidance, much of which is currently being revised.
A. Federal Funding and Foreign components
Federal research sponsors have expressed specific concerns about a lack of complete disclosure of foreign components of proposed/awarded projects (i.e. relevant foreign collaborations that are expected to result in shared authorship). Historically, universities interpreted funding agency guidelines to mean that only activities with an effort commitment and a scope of work should be disclosed as “Other Support”. However, agencies are now communicating a more expansive interpretation of their existing guidelines.
Funding agencies appear to be particularly concerned about PIs “double-dipping”, meaning they are receiving funding from multiple sources for the same specific research project. Funding agencies are reviewing foreign collaborations or activities that appear to overlap, or create an over-commitment, in relation to the PI’s Federal funding. In particular, agencies are comparing funding sources listed in publications with funding sources reported in grant proposals and progress reports.
It is the PI’s responsibility to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in the “Other Support” or “Current and Pending Support” sections of proposals and progress reports.
1. Foreign Components
Foreign components of federally funded research must be disclosed on proposals, progress reports, and final technical reports. NIH defines a Foreign Component 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" [emphasis added]. Foreign components 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.
There are multiple ways in which foreign components can be disclosed, e.g.,
- Identifying a “foreign component” in a grant application;
- Listing a “non-U.S. performance site”;
- Identifying foreign relationships and activities in a biosketch;
- Checking “yes” to the question on the Cover Page Supplement Form asking, “Does this project involve activities outside of the United States or partnerships with international collaborators?”
Principal Investigators (PIs) should review all pending proposals and active awards to ensure that all foreign components have been disclosed. If a PI identifies an omission or error in a previously submitted proposal, the PI should contact their designated Sponsored Projects Team. If you are unsure who your Sponsored Projects Team (SPO) team is, please visit our staff directory.
2. Other Support & Current and Pending Support
UCSB researchers should ensure they disclose all applicable “Other Support” as required by federal sponsors. “Other Support” may include 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. The Office of Research has created detailed guidance on how to complete “Other Support”. Some sponsor guidelines may specify that all sources of direct research support be disclosed, regardless of whether they are awarded through UCSB, through another institution, or provided directly to the researcher.
Financial resources should be disclosed to the sponsor, even if they relate to work that is performed completely outside of a researcher’s appointment period. For example, if a researcher with a 9-month appointment spends two months at a university outside of the U.S. during the summer conducting research under a foreign award, that foreign support should be disclosed.
Most federal sponsors will have their own guidance on how to complete “Other Support” forms, and several sponsors are in the process of updating their guidance. It is ultimately the responsibility of the individual researcher to ensure that the report of Other Support is complete and accurate to the best of their knowledge, but PIs are encouraged to contact us if they have questions about reporting a particular activity. If a PI identifies an omission or error in a previously submitted proposal, the PI should contact their designated Sponsored Projects Team.
3. Talent Programs
An issue that is garnering a great deal of scrutiny by the federal government is participation in foreign talent programs, such as China’s Thousand Talents Program. In particular, the Department of Energy has expressed strong concerns about these programs and has prohibited its employees from engaging in these activities. A July 2020 Public Service Announcement from the FBI summarizes the government's concerns related to Talent Plans (programs).There is concern within the academic community that these restrictions will trickle-down to university research.
Not only should participation in a foreign talent program be disclosed to federal sponsors, UCSB researchers should also reach out to the Export Control Officer, even if they’ve previously obtained prior approval from UCSB in accordance with the policy on Conflict of Commitment and Outside Activities of Faculty Members. Carefully review any agreements related to such participating in talent programs, as they may contain provisions that violate UCSB policies. Depending on an individual’s research portfolio, the researcher will be advised of any federal sponsor concerns related to participation in talent programs.
4. Conflict of Interest disclosures
Certain financial interests in a foreign entity, including governments and universities, must be disclosed to UCSB in accordance with applicable federal, state, and UCSB requirements. At UCSB, separate disclosure requirements apply to those applying for, or accepting, funding from the National Science Foundation, Public Health Service agencies (NIH, CDC, FDA, etc.), and non-governmental sponsors. If you have questions about updating a disclosure or whether a specific activity must be disclosed, please email email@example.com.
While NIH exempts disclosure of some activities conducted for U.S. institutions of higher education, foreign entities are not exempt from the disclosure requirements.
5. Conflict of Commitment disclosures
In addition to disclosure of financial interests to UCSB, there may be additional disclosure requirements for outside professional activities. In accordance with university policy, only Category I outside activities require prior approval. Other outside activities may only require annual reporting to UCSB. It is possible that you may need to list these activities within sponsored research proposals or progress reports before they are disclosed to the university. A few common examples of outside activities include: consulting, teaching courses at outside organizations, or entrepreneurial ventures related to your area of research.
B. Protection of data, software, devices, and intellectual property
In the context of “foreign influence”, the federal government has shared concerns about improperly safeguarding certain types of privileged information. Through the peer review process, faculty may have access to confidential information or Intellectual Property in grant applications. Funding agencies are particularly concerned about peer reviewers sharing this information without authorization (see this NIH blog post from December 2020).
Individuals researching dual-use technology and/or sensitive emerging technologies should be particularly vigilant about safeguarding confidential information or Intellectual Property.
- If you have concerns about safeguarding your data and devices or require a secure computing environment for your research, please contact the Office of Information Security at https://security.ucsb.edu/.
C. International visits and hosting international visitors
Federal agencies are highly concerned about improper diversion of intellectual property and unpublished research results, which is distinct from collaborative activities, routinely engaged in by faculty.
Travel to sanctioned or embargoed countries may have restrictions or require a license from the U.S. government. Some other destinations are considered high-risk, and we recommend that you follow guidance from the U.S. State Department. You are encouraged to take appropriate precautions when traveling with electronic devices. When traveling to high-risk countries, you should not take devices with unpublished or confidential research data. For more information, please see the guidance provided by UCSB’s Information Security.
Some forms of technology and consumer goods are subject to export controls, even if your destination is not a sanctioned country. Items, such as University owned laptops or tablets, that are kept under your effective control and returned to the U.S. within 12 months are generally exempt from export restrictions. However, other research and high-tech equipment may require review by the Export Control Officer to determine if an export license is needed.
International visitors and scholars
University faculty and staff routinely host international colleagues for short-term visits to campus. In rare cases, visiting scholars may be pressured by their home countries to inappropriately access information or research facilities and equipment.
If you are asked to facilitate the visit of a foreign delegation or asked to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with a foreign institution, please contact Global Engagement. A formal review process exists for these types of activities, and such agreements may only be signed by authorized individuals.