Foreign Influence on Federally Sponsored Research

While UVA strongly supports international collaboration and values its partnerships with universities and other organizations worldwide, it is important that all faculty members understand the current regulatory landscape.

The U.S. Government is taking steps to increase oversight and protect U.S. research investments from undue foreign influence and by those seeking to compromise U.S. national and economic security by undermining our primacy as a global leader in research and technology development.

Foreign governments’ active recruitment of scholars into “foreign talent (recruitment) programs” and their attempts to influence nationals of their country (and supported nationals of other countries) to misappropriate federally funded research results and intellectual property from U.S. institutions of higher education are of particular concern. Note: The U.S. government has not formally defined “foreign talent programs” or “foreign talent recruitment programs” but has named China’s Thousand Talents Program as an example.

UVA's Commitment to and Support of Global Engagement

The University of Virginia believes that global engagement, both by bringing international scholars to Grounds and encouraging our scholars to collaborate internationally, enriches the student experience and brings diverse knowledge and experiences that enhance our scholarship. UVA’s global engagement initiatives aspire to establish “a vibrant global presence that fosters global knowledge, inquiry, and cross-cultural understanding among faculty and students” (Global Affairs) which is seen as critical to positioning our students, the University, and the Commonwealth for success in an increasingly interconnected world.

UVA promotes and supports global engagement of our faculty and students as part of our commitment to diversity, which along with ethics, integrity and academic excellence form the foundation of our University culture. “When people of different backgrounds come together, they exchange ideas, question assumptions (including their own), and broaden horizons for us all” (UVA’s Commitment to Diversity).

Global engagement is a net positive for the University and nearly all forms of international collaboration and exchange are encouraged by University priorities and permitted by institutional policies as well as applicable laws and regulations. However, in limited instances, these activities may pose a risk of harm, loss of funding, or legal consequences for the University, its students, and its faculty. Taking a few simple steps, consistent with established University expectations and existing practices, will help ensure that international collaborations and other global engagement activities are transparent and in full compliance with applicable requirements.

This guidance has been prepared by the Offices of the Vice President for Research, Export Controls, and Global Affairs.

University Best Practices for Disclosing Foreign Relationships and Activities

The University expects faculty to be transparent about their professional activities on behalf of the institution and other entities. Having a comprehensive understanding of the current and planned activities of faculty members allows institutional officials and administrators to more effectively support and coordinate aligned initiatives; address regulatory and sponsor requirements; and identify and manage risks including, but not limited to, actual or perceived conflicts of interest and commitment.

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:

Faculty Annual Performance Review
Each faculty member must submit an annual report in a prescribed format that summarizes teaching, research, service, and outside consulting activities for the reporting period as well as other information deemed relevant by the provost, dean, department chair, or unit head (Annual Performance Reviews). 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.

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. Virginia 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 Vice President for Research’s conflict of interest page.
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.

Sponsored Research Disclosures
“Other Support” or “Current & Pending” Disclosure Requirements “Support” includes all financial resources, foreign and domestic, available to support an individual’s research endeavors. University researchers are expected to disclose all support as part of their federal funding proposals, typically on the “Other Support,” “Current & Pending,” or other similarly named section or form.
Recently federal sponsors have become particularly concerned about participation in foreign talent programs. While participation in such programs is not illegal, it is a source of support that must be disclosed. Depending on the sponsor and proposed research, key personnel may be advised or required to terminate their affiliation with the foreign talent program in order to receive an award.

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 the Office of Sponsored Programs 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, subcontractors/subawardees, parties to non-funded agreements, and to review international visitors. Additional information is available on the Office of Export Control's restricted party screening page.

International Travel

Basic information for individuals traveling abroad for University purposes is available on Procurement and Supplier Diversity Services’ international travel page. The page includes information on University policies, procedures and resources related to international travel (e.g., Traveler’s Clinic services, health plan coverage, and vehicle rental insurance for international travel) as well as links to a variety of U.S. government resources.

Export Controls and Sanction Programs Everything you take with you on international travel is considered an export, even if you bring it back or use it up while on travel. FIN-043 , Managing Export and Sanction Compliance in Support of University Activities, requires that all exports of University-owned items (including laptops, tablets, and smart phones) be reviewed and approved prior to export (i.e., international travel). While licenses aren’t typically required for standard items to most destinations, request an assessment well in advance of travel to allow time to obtain licenses when necessary. Licenses are routinely required for University travel to and activities in or involving comprehensively sanctioned countries (e.g., Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria). For additional information visit the Office of Export Controls international travel page or contact a staff member for assistance.

Traveling Securely Abroad
Protecting your data and electronic devices while traveling is extremely important. Check with your department or local support provider (LSP) to see if a “loaner” laptop is available for you to take on travel. Avoid carrying any sensitive, confidential, or proprietary data on your device or portable media. If it is absolutely essential that you take such data with you, check with both the Office of Export Controls and Information Security to ensure that you have appropriate licenses or other authorizations and safeguards in place to adequately protect the information. Consult Information Security’s Best Practices for Traveling Internationallypage for specific guidance on precautions before you go, while traveling and when you return.

Obtaining a Visa for International Travel It is important that all University travelers engaged in University activities outside the United States travel with the appropriate immigration documentation, including passport and visa where required. It is the traveler’s responsibility to obtain all required authorizations and documents prior to engaging in international travel. Non-US citizen members of the University community who will be returning to Grounds following international travel should consult their sponsoring office for required documents, signatures, and U.S. entry visa requirements. International students and scholars are encouraged to review the guidance provided on International Studies Office’s Travel and Re-entry page.

UVA Resources & Regulations

  • Annual Performance Reviews
  • Financial Conflicts of Interest
  • Restricted Party Screening
  • FIN-043
  • Best Practices for Traveling Internationally
  • International Studies Office’s Travel and Re-entry

  • Federal/National Resources

  • NIH:Francis Collins memo on August 20, 2018
  • NSF:Board statement
  • DOD:John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (NDAA FY19)
  • DOD: March 20, 2019, memo Under Secretary of Defense, Research and Engineering, Michael Griffin, directed that all new DOD Notices of Funding Opportunities pertaining to research and research related educational activities include a requirement that proposers provide the additional information on the other support and commitments of all key personnel, whether or not funded.
  • DOE: Deputy Secretary of Energy issued memos on December 14, 2018, and January 31, 2019, detailing agency concerns related to inappropriate foreign influence and identifying specific actions that will be taken to manage risks.
  • AAU Responding to Undue Foreign Influence and Security Concerns on Campus
  • APLU Statement on New Efforts to Bolster NIH-Funded Research Security

  • The first memo directs the creation of a list of emerging “research areas and technologies that are in the U.S. national interest to limit sensitive country foreign nationals (SCFN) access,” referred to as the Science & Technology (S&T) Risk Matrix; sets enhanced vetting requirements for all foreign nationals visiting or assigned to DOE labs; prohibits SCFNs from certain activities; and generally prohibits travel to sensitive countries. To further limit risks, DOE plans to take the following action detailed in the second memo:

    “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.