International Relationships and Activities

Introduction

Congress and the US federal agencies have been increasingly concerned that foreign entities may seek to unduly influence U.S. research. The NIH has specifically identified three main areas of concern (Collins letter to NIH awardee institutions, August 20, 2018):

  1. Diversion of intellectual property to other entities, including other countries;
  2. Sharing of confidential information on grant applications by NIH peer reviewers; and
  3. Failure by some researchers to disclose substantial resources from other organizations.

Several other federal agencies have expressed similar concerns and have issued statements outlined blow.

While the federal government is placing greater scrutiny on foreign activities, Dan Jaffe, UT’s Vice President for Research, recently said the following in an email to researchers,

“External collaborations, including international collaborations, are an essential part of research and scholarship at the University of Texas at Austin. We encourage you to continue to seek out and nurture research partnerships that further your intellectual goals. As we build these partnerships, we need to be mindful of the obligation that comes with them. Both our own standards of transparency and the requirements of federal funding agencies make it necessary for investigators and the institution to disclose support, partnership, and involvement that can lead to bias, conflict of interest, or conflict of commitment, or the appearance of any of these.”

Recent Developments

  1. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a July 10, 2019 notice reminding recipient institutions and investigators of “the need to report foreign activities through documentation of other support, foreign components, and financial conflict of interest to prevent scientific, budgetary, or commitment overlap.”
    1. Prior to issuing this notice, as of July 2019, the NIH contacted more than 60 institutions regarding scientists the NIH believes failed to disclose financial ties to foreign agencies or have failed to uphold the confidentiality of the peer review process. As a result of investigations conducted collaboratively between the NIH and the institutions, some dismissals have occurred, and grant funds have been returned.
  2. The Department of Defense (DoD) on March 20, 2019 issued a memo outlining disclosure requirements for all key personnel listed on research and research-related educational activities supported by DoD grants and contracts.
  3. The National Science Foundation (NSF) on July 11, 2019 issued a letter addressing research protections that included:
    1. A reminder about disclosure requirements for all senior project personnel and noted that draft clarifications for reporting requirements have been published for public comment.  These clarifications indicate a requirement to disclose all current and pending support through the proposing organization or directly to the individual including 1) non-profit organizations and consulting agreements and 2) all projects requiring a time commitment.
    2. New policy prohibiting NSF personnel from participation in foreign government talent programs.
  4. The Department of Energy (DOE) issued a directive on June 7, 2019 mandating that “federal and contractor personnel fully disclose and, as necessary, terminate affiliations with foreign government-supported talent programs” on new DOE contracts and subcontracts.
  5. Long-standing restrictions prohibiting cooperation between NASA and China were upheld in March of 2018 in an omnibus spending bill, which stipulates that “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used…to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement, or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese owned company…”

Disclosure Requirements

As much of the attention focuses on appropriately disclosing foreign relationships and support, it is important to be aware of internal and external disclosure requirements.

Disclosures to UT

Disclosure Requirement:

UT HOP 5-2011

Who Must Disclose:

  • All 12 & 9 month faculty
  • Full time professional and administrative employees
  • Part time faculty/staff only if the activity reasonably appears to create a conflict of interest

What to Disclose:

Disclose and seek approval in advance for any of the following:

  • All outside employment or other compensated activities;
  • All outside teaching related to the discipline taught at UT;
  • All service on outside boards (see exceptions below);
  • Any uncompensated activity that reasonably appears to create a conflict of interest or conflict of commitment, such as:
    • Any substantial interest in a business entity
      • Controlling interest
      • >$5,000 ownership interest
      • >10% equity interest
      • Service as an officer
    • Any gifts >$250 to you or immediate family
    • Any activity of immediate family related to your responsibilities at UT

Exceptions to disclosure requirements (these should be reported to your department chair through the annual performance evaluation process):

  • Serving on a federal, state, or local government agency committee, panel, or commission;
  • Acting in an editorial capacity for a professional journal;
  • Reviewing journal or book manuscripts, or grant or contract proposals;
  • Attending and presenting talks at scholarly colloquia and conferences;
  • Developing scholarly communication even when resulting in financial gain;
  • Serving as a committee member, an officer, or board member of a professional or scholarly society.

When to Disclose:

Annually and within 30 days of a change

Where to Disclose:

Disclose in UT Systems Portal.

Disclosure Requirement:

Travel Authorizations

Who Must Disclose:

All travelers when traveling for business during the normal working period

What to Disclose:

Complete a Request for Travel Authorization (RTA)

When to Disclose:

Prior to start of travel

Where to Disclose:

  • Typically, a Departmental or Unit process or complete an electronic VE5 document in DEFINE.
  • Approval granted by Supervisor.

Disclosure Requirement:

Who Must Disclose:

All travelers when traveling for business during the normal working period

What to Disclose:

Complete a Request for Travel Authorization (RTA)

When to Disclose:

Prior to start of travel

Where to Disclose:

  • Typically, a Departmental or Unit process or complete an electronic VE5 document in DEFINE.
  • Approval granted by Supervisor.
  • Some foreign destinations are considered restricted regions and travel must be approved by the UT International Oversight Committee.
  • Foreign travel to be paid by a research sponsor must be pre-approved by the sponsor.

Disclosure Requirement:

UT Export Control website

Who Must Disclose:

Export Control regulations can apply whenever:

  • To any research involving a restricted or classified technology if the research is not fundamental research or a foreign national is working in the lab where the controlled technology is being used.
  • International travel where controlled technology will be taken outside the US. Laptops are considered controlled.
  • Shipping controlled technologies outside the US.

What to Disclose:

Contact the UT Export Control Officer, David Ivey for assistance in determining if export control regulations apply to you. For more information see the UT Export Control website.

When to Disclose:

  • Whenever it is unclear whether export control regulations apply.
  • Before international travel. Loaner laptops are available.
  • Before shipping technology or materials internationally.

Where to Disclose:

Contact the Export Control Officer.

Disclosures of “Other Support” and Foreign Components to Federal Funding Sources

Sponsors typically have specific guidelines of what to disclose as “Other Support.” The table below provides a summary of requirements. Ultimately, it is the investigator’s responsibility to ensure that disclosures are made in concurrence with sponsor policies. Disclosures must be made at the time of proposal and as situations change via update and reporting processes.

Agency Requirement:

Other Support:

For ALL Senior / Key Personnel who contribute to scientific development or execution of a project in substantive, measurable way regardless of whether salary or compensation is requested for each individual:

  1. All positions & scientific appointments (domestic & foreign)
    1. Includes compensated & uncompensated appointments
    2. Includes affiliations with foreign entities or governments
  2. All resources and other support for ongoing projects
    1. Include all irrespective of whether support is provided through the applicant institution (UT), through another domestic or foreign organization, or is provided directly to an individual
    2. Include all even if in-kind support
    3. All research resources must be reported:
      • Foreign financial support
      • Research or laboratory personnel, lab space, scientific materials
      • Selection to foreign “talents” program
      • Other foreign or domestic support
    4. Total award amount for the entire award period covered & number of person-months per year to be devoted to each ongoing project by senior/key personnel

Foreign Component:

Foreign Components are “the existence of any significant scientific element or segment of a project outside of the United States.” Foreign components must be disclosed.

  1. Performance of work by a researcher or recipient in a foreign location, whether or not NIH grant funds are expended and/or
  2. 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.

Agency Requirement:

Other Support:

All individuals designated as senior personnel on NSF proposals must disclose:

  1. All current and pending support, including for the proposed project, for ongoing projects, and for any proposals currently under consideration by any source.
    1. Report all regardless of whether funds provided through the proposing organization (UT) or directly to the individual [e.g., Federal, State, local, foreign, public or private foundations, industrial or other commercial organizations, or internal funds allocated toward specific projects]
    2. Include the proposed activity and all other projects and activities, current and proposed, that require a time commitment, even if the support is only in-kind or no salary support is being provided
    3. Provide the total award amount for the entire award period covered (including indirect costs)
    4. Provide the number of person-months (or partial months) per year to be devoted to the project for each senior personnel
    5. If the project being proposed has been previously funded by NSF or otherwise, provide required information for the last period of funding

Foreign Component:

International Activities:

  • Identify all international activities - “defined as research, training, and/or education carried out in cooperation with international counterparts either overseas or in the U.S. using virtual technologies.”
  • List applicable countries

Foreign Organizations via subaward or consulting arrangement:

  • Explain in the proposal why local support is not feasible and why the foreign organization can carry out the proposed activity more effectively. The proposal must demonstrate that the foreign organization:
    • Contributes a unique organization, geographic location, and/or access to unique data resources not generally available to US investigators, or other resources that are essential to the success of the proposed project; or
    • Offers significant science and engineering education, training or research opportunities to the US

Agency Requirement:

March 20, 2019 DoD Memo identifying other support disclosure requirements

Other Support:

For all key personnel, regardless of whether effort will be funded by the DoD:

  • All current projects the individual is working on
  • Any future support the individual has applied for from any source
  • Title and objectives of the other research projects
  • Percentage per year to be devoted to the other projects
  • Total amount of support the individual is receiving in connection to each of the other research projects or will receive if awarded
  • Name and address of the agencies and/or parties supporting the other projects
  • Period of performance for the other projects

Other Support:

Proposers must submit the following for all key personnel, whether or not the individuals’ efforts under the project are to be funded through the award:

  • Previous (award period of performance ending within the past 5 years), current, and pending research support including:
    • Title
    • Time commitments
    • Supporting agency
    • Name and address of funding agency’s procuring contracts/grants officer
    • Performance period
    • Level of funding
    • Brief description of project goals
    • Specific aims
    • Identify any overlap with other existing and pending research projects or state there is no overlap

Foreign Component:

Identify any partner organizations and their contribution(s), including location/country of the partner.

Disclosures to the Public

Disclose all financial relationships related to your research in all public sharing of your research results, such as in presentations, publications or otherwise. It is important to note that journal disclosure requirements are often broader than UT requirements, which may require additional disclosures.

Where to Get Assistance

Disclosure TypeContact
Grant Proposal Other Support & Foreign ComponentsOffice of Sponsored Projects
osp@austin.utexas.edu
UT Financial Interest DisclosuresOffice of Research Support and Compliance
Conflict of Interest Program
coi@austin.utexas.edu
512-471-8871
UT Outside Activities DisclosuresOffice of Research Support and Compliance
Conflict of Interest Program
coi@austin.utexas.edu
512-471-8871

Or your Department Chair / Supervisor
Foreign TravelInternational Office
Global Risk and Safety
512-471-1211

And / Or

Export Control Officer
David Ivey
ivey@austin.utexas.edu
Export ControlExport Control Officer
David Ivey
ivey@austin.utexas.edu