Federal government agencies have expressed concern that some foreign parties, particularly foreign nations who are adversaries of the United States, seek to acquire U.S. academic research and information illicitly to advance their scientific, economic and military development goals by exploiting the culture of collaboration and openness on university campuses.

The National Institutes of Health (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.

As described by the FBI, these programs target individuals who are working in technological fields of interest to a foreign government, by offering competitive salaries, state-of-the-art research facilities and/or honorific titles to encourage the transfer of ideas and intellectual property. The federal government is concerned that talent recruitment programs may be used by foreign governments to acquire, legally and illegally, U.S. government-funded scientific research and seek to influence or dominate technology sectors currently led by U.S. entities.

Department of Energy definition of Foreign Government Talent Recruitment Program:

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 programs include:

  • 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.
  • 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.

At present, there are no US laws or rules prohibiting participation… However, there are policies prohibiting such participation. The Department of Energy (DOE) issued an internal directive that prohibits DOE employees and contract employees from participating in foreign talent recruitment programs to ensure protection of U.S. competitive and national security interests, as well as DOE program objectives.  Similarly, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a policy prohibiting NSF personnel and those on assignment to NSF from participating in foreign government talent recruitment programs due to risk concerns. At least one national lab, Idaho National Lab, has issued a request that researchers attest to not participating in foreign talents programs.

Continue to adhere to OSU Research Office guidance.  Make sure research sponsors aware of your collaborations and interactions with foreign entities that support or contribute to your research program. Meanwhile, federal agencies are expecting a thorough accounting of where there are connections between your research program and any foreign entity.

  • If you are NIH funded: In July 2019 the NIH published FAQs regarding “Other Support and Foreign Components,” which provide more detail on NIH’s expectations regarding what qualifies as “other support” and information about when a project includes a “foreign component.” These clarifications address how to account appropriately for visiting scholars, start-up and other internal funds, and foreign collaborations, even if no grant funds are expended on the collaboration. Additionally, Michael Lauer, NIH’s deputy director for Extramural Research, has blogged on the topic of “other support,” providing examples of what should be disclosed.
  • If you are NSF funded: In July 2019, the NSF sent out a reminder in the form of a “Dear Colleague Letter” on research protection. As noted in this letter, NSF is evaluating proposed clarifications to its proposal disclosure requirements, including completion of Current and Pending Support documents, which would be effective in January 2020.

Oregon State University welcomes and supports international collaborations. Consistent with federal agency guidance, you should provide information to your research sponsors about all international collaborations. Classified and export controlled projects, which are a small portion of OSU projects, will be subject to foreign national restrictions. With the appropriate licenses and/or exemptions, working with certain foreign nationals on classified and export controlled projects may be possible. Always contact the Office for Export Controls Compliance, to confirm that there are no restrictions, or to obtain the necessary licenses where possible.

We do not have specific guidance from all sponsors on this topic However, per NIH guidelines, this person’s work on the project should be documented as follows:

  1. As “Other Support” because the externally funded individual is a “resource available in direct support of [your] research endeavors.” The NIH recently clarified that “all research resources including, but not limited to, foreign financial support, research or laboratory personnel, lab space, scientific materials… must be reported.”
  2. As a “Participant” in the progress report if the person worked on a project for more than a month in any given year (see 6.4 Section D – Participants). Additionally, the person’s “primary affiliation” is determined by where the work was done for the project. If the individual is affiliated with a foreign organization but worked on the award solely in the U.S., the “primary affiliation” is not foreign; if work was performed outside of the U.S., the primary affiliation should be noted as foreign.
  3. As a “Foreign Component” if the individual performed part of the work while in your OSU lab, but also made a significant contribution to the project from their home institution, or any other foreign location (e.g. collecting data at a foreign site, running samples on instrumentation there, and/or will be a co-author on publications arising from the grant).

The university does not require disclosure of your personal travel.

Note, however, that if you travel internationally with your work laptop or other device, you should be mindful of any sensitive data that the device may contain and take steps to ensure its security. Please contact IT support staff for guidance on international travel with laptops https://is.oregonstate.edu/.

The federal government maintains lists of entities that are deemed to be of higher risk. Since this information changes frequently, OSU uses software to screen proposed partners against the most current federal lists. OSU is required to screen sponsors, including sponsors of research, proposed vendors or subcontractors and others. Please contact the Office for Export Controls Compliance if you have any questions about engaging with foreign entities – including accepting gifts.

In general, one-time travel to present at a conference would not require disclosure to grant sponsors.  If, however, that travel establishes a relationship with a foreign university, government or other entity (e.g., results in an honorary or visiting appointment or an offer to set up laboratory space at that institution), that may need to be disclosed, depending on the sponsor and their specific guidelines. You should also obtain guidance from your associate dean for research if there is a question.

Note that travel to certain countries may be impacted by a wide range of export control regulations; see travel from the Office for Export Controls Compliance for more information.

Also, ensure you have met your travel conflict of interest (COI) disclosure requirements https://research.oregonstate.edu/coi.

In most cases, there is no reason to disclose participation of foreign students or postdocs on sponsored research, especially if all such work will be performed in the U.S. However, classified and export controlled projects will be subject to foreign national restrictions. It may be possible to employ certain foreign nationals on controlled projects after appropriate licenses and/or exemptions are secured. Please contact OSU's Export Compliance Office for more information on such cases. There are no foreign national restrictions on “Fundamental Research” projects. (See RA40 for a definition of “Fundamental Research.”)