Disclosing International Activities and Relationships

The University of West Florida values and encourages international research, collaboration and scholarship that are an integral part of UWF’s contribution to regional, state and international communities. The University is equally committed to adhering to regulatory requirements and being a good steward of state and federal agencies’ resources in executing UWF’s mission.


Within U.S. federal agencies and university communities, there is growing concern regarding certain agreements and activities between university faculty members and various foreign universities and institutions, the existence of which may have a negative impact on federal agencies’ funding decisions for individual researchers. Of particular concern are the cases where researchers are not disclosing these relationships and activities to their university or to U.S. federal agencies that support their work.

The recent message from the funding agencies is clear: investigators and their universities must completely disclose all foreign activities to their federal funding sponsors.

In an effort to support the UWF research community and to enable our faculty and staff to successfully navigate international relationships and activities, we are sharing guidance on university and federal agency requirements regarding foreign engagements by university faculty.

What are Federal Agencies Saying?

In 2018, the federal funding agencies began expressing serious concerns that foreign entities were exerting inappropriate influence on U.S. research. The bulk of the concern centers around a lack of disclosure by faculty regarding foreign activities and interests. The funding agencies are adamant that investigators and their universities must completely disclose all foreign activities. The most recent guidance from various federal agencies is below.

NIH Communications

NSF Communications

DOE Communications

DOD Communications

OSTP Communications

While federal agencies are continuing to update their guidance on this topic, it is clear that rules require complete disclosure of research activities that involve a foreign entity. Failure to disclose will create significant issues for the investigator and UWF. The University will continue to post updates and clarifications as we receive them from our sponsors. We encourage UWF researchers to review federal, sponsor and UWF policies and procedures, and to thoroughly disclose all domestic and international research-related relationships and activities to federal sponsors in proposals and progress reports, as well as to UWF as an outside activity. 

What International Relationships and Activities Must be Disclosed?

The UWF Employee Code of Conduct (University Policy HR-15.02-05/16requires all UWF employees involved in any outside activity related to their University expertise, whether domestic or foreign, be disclosed and approved via the UWF conflict of interest/outside activity disclosure process for any activity coinciding with the term of their UWF appointment.

Please note, however, that federal sponsors require broader disclosure. All federally sponsored investigators and key personnel must report any activity that supports their research endeavors, regardless of: (1) whether it is an activity conducted within the scope of their UWF job (i.e., an “inside activity”) or conducted in their private capacity (i.e., an “outside activity”); and (2) whether it takes place within or outside the term of their UWF appointment.

Outside activities must be reported to UWF. Outside and inside activities must be reported to federal sponsors. Within the context of foreign engagements, the examples below illustrate activities one would disclose to UWF and federal sponsors if performed in a private capacity. If performed within the scope of one’s UWF job, these activities would need to be reported to federal sponsors only. 

  1. Academic, research, or administrative appointments at a foreign institution, even if the appointment is uncompensated. This includes appointments that are full-time, part-time, honorary, adjunct, or voluntary.
  2. Any agreement with a foreign university for which the UWF faculty member directs non-UWF students, postdocs, or other personnel affiliated with that university.
  3. Any foreign affiliation that is included in any publication by the UWF faculty member.
  4. Any contractual agreement with a foreign institution, company, or government agency.
  5. Any non-UWF agreement in which foreign funds or other resources are provided to the faculty for activities either at UWF or at a foreign institution.
  6. Any agreement or relationship that assigns intellectual property (IP) rights to the foreign institution.
  7. Any agreement or relationship with a foreign entity in which the UWF faculty member receives payments for salary, stipends, or living expenses.
  8. Any consulting agreements with a foreign entity.
  9. Holding a position such as founder, partner, employee, or board member at a company, non-profit, governmental agency, or other foreign entity.
  10. Receiving living/lodging funds or reimbursements.
  11. Having significant ownership interest in a foreign company related to your UWF role/responsibility.
  12. Financial interests in a foreign entity that does business with or competes with UWF.
  13. Receiving travel funds or reimbursements from a foreign entity.
  14. Receiving an honorarium from a foreign entity.

The above list provides guidance about foreign relationships and activities that must be disclosed. For additional information, including Frequent Asked Questions, UWF Research Administration and Engagement recommends reviewing the University of Florida’s informative page on this subject, “Disclosing International Relationships and Activities to UF and Federal Agencies”. 

How to Disclose Foreign Activities to UWF

Disclosure to UWF requires that UWF faculty complete the “Disclosure of Outside Activities and Financial Interests” Conflict of Interest form and submit it to their Chair or Supervisor for appropriate approval, as described on the UWF Human Resources Conflict of Interest webpage. That webpage provides additional information on UWF’s disclosure of outside activities process and related requirements.

 

Disclosing Foreign Activities to NIH

For NIH, the disclosure of foreign activities should be made as Other Support, Foreign Component, and/or within the Biosketch.

Disclosing Foreign Activities to NIH as Other Support

Definition of Other Support – NIH requires senior/key personnel to disclose all resources made available to them in support of or related to all of their research endeavors, regardless of whether or not they have monetary value and regardless of the performance site of the research. Even if the researcher performs the activity outside of the researcher’s UWF appointment period (e.g., a nine-month faculty member conducts the activity during the summer months) or at a location other than UWF, the researcher must disclose the activity to federal sponsors if it supports or relates to his/her research endeavors.

Examples of other support include, but are not limited to, the following when they are in support of an investigator’s research endeavors:

  1. Domestic and foreign grants and contracts, whether provided through UWF, another institution, or to the researcher directly;
  2. Financial support for laboratory personnel (e.g., students, postdocs, or scholars working in a researcher’s lab at UWF and who are supported by a foreign entity either through salary, stipend, or receipt of living or travel expenses);
  3. Provision of lab space at another institution, foreign or domestic;
  4. Provision of scientific materials that are not freely available for use at UWF or another institution where the faculty is working (e.g., biologics, chemical, model systems, technology, equipment, etc.);
  5. Travel expenses directly paid or reimbursed by a an outside entity;
  6. Living expenses directly paid or reimbursed by an outside entity; and
  7. Other funding (e.g., salary, stipend, honoraria, etc.) paid to a UWF researcher by an outside entity.

NIH requires Other Support to be submitted as part of the Just-in-Time procedures. All other support indicated above must be included in that process. Researchers are responsible for promptly notifying NIH of any substantive changes to previously submitted Just-in-Time information up to the time of award.

After the initial NIH award, researchers must disclose other support in the annual research performance progress report (RPPR). Additionally, for post-award disclosures of other support, recipients must address any substantive changes by submitting a prior approval request to NIH in accordance with the NIHGPS section on “Administrative Requirements—Changes in Project and Budget—NIH Standard Terms of Award.”

Disclosing Foreign Activities to NIH as Foreign Component

NIH defines “foreign component” as the performance of any significant scientific element or segment of a project outside of the U.S., either by the recipient or by a researcher employed by a foreign entity, whether or not grant funds are expended. There is a 2-part test for determining whether an activity meets the definition of foreign component: (1) whether a portion of the project will be conducted outside of the U.S. and (2) whether that portion of the project is significant. Some examples of activities that may be considered a significant element of the project include, but are not limited to:

  1. Collaborations with investigators at a foreign site anticipated to result in co-authorship;
  2. Use of facilities or instrumentation at a foreign site; or
  3. Receipt of financial support or resources from a foreign entity.

In some cases, it may be difficult to tell whether a certain activity is a foreign component, other support, or neither. In general, if an activity does not meet the definition of foreign component because all research is being conducted within the U.S., but there is a non-U.S. resource that supports the researcher or his/her research endeavors, it must be disclosed as other support. NIH has provided some examples within its FAQs document

At the time of application submission, if there is an anticipated foreign component, researchers must check yes to question 6 on the “R&R Other Project Information” form “Does this project involve activities outside of the United States or partnerships with international collaborators?” and include a “Foreign Justification” attachment in Field 12 “Other Attachments.”. The Foreign Justification should describe the special resources or characteristics of the research project (e.g., human subjects, animals, disease, equipment, and techniques), including the reasons why the facilities or other aspects of the proposed project are more appropriate than a domestic setting.

If researchers want to add a foreign component to an ongoing NIH award, UWF must receive prior approval before adding the foreign component. To seek prior approval, researchers must follow the process identified in NIHGPS Section 8.1.2. An Award Modification should be initiated in UFIRST to submit the request to DSP for review prior to submission to the NIH.

Disclosing Foreign Affiliations to NIH in Biosketch

As part of the national discussion of inappropriate foreign influence on U.S. research, many federal agencies, including NIH and NSF, have cited foreign talent recruitment programs as posing a particular threat to the U.S. research community. Participation in foreign talent recruitment programs often involves academic or research affiliations with foreign institutions, financial or other in-kind support for a U.S. researcher’s program, and commitments of time and resources from the U.S. researcher. As such, both the federal sponsors and UWF require disclosure of participation in foreign talent recruitment programs. Additionally, activities similar to those described above but not labeled as a foreign talent recruitment program must be disclosed (e.g., affiliations or appointments at another institution, whether or not remuneration is received, and whether full-time, part-time, or voluntary—including adjunct, visiting, or honorary).

Researchers should include all affiliations—foreign and domestic—on their Biosketch. Additionally, some affiliations or participation in programs may also meet the definition of Other Support or Foreign Component. If so, researchers should disclose the activity as described above.

Prior to accepting any affiliation with another institution that requires a commitment of time or resources, and irrespective of whether the affiliation is compensated or not, UWF faculty need to disclose the activity to their department leadership and receive approval. This includes participation in foreign talent recruitment programs or other affiliations/appointments at another institution.

Disclosing Foreign Activities to NSF, DOE, DOD, and Most Other Federal Agencies

For NSF, DOE, DOD, and other non-NIH agencies, the disclosure of foreign activities should be done within Current and Pending and/or the Biosketch.

Disclosing Foreign Activities as Current and Pending Support

For many agencies, the term “current and pending support” refers to the types of “other support” described above for NIH. NSF is currently working to develop an electronic format for disclosure of current and pending support information and has proposed revisions to its Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) to clarify the reporting requirements for current and pending support. We will update this site once NSF releases its revisions. In the meantime, researchers must use NSF’s current and pending support form loaded into Fastlane to disclose other support.  For other agencies, including DOE and DOD, investigators should list that foreign activity with the “current and pending support” construct.

Disclosing Foreign Affiliations in Biosketch

As part of the national discussion of inappropriate foreign influence on U.S. research, many federal agencies, including NIH and NSF, have cited foreign talent recruitment programs as posing a particular threat to the U.S. research community. Participation in foreign talent recruitment programs often involves academic or research affiliations with foreign institutions, financial or other in-kind support for a U.S. researcher’s program, and commitments of time and resources from the U.S. researcher. As such, both the federal sponsors and UWF require disclosure of participation in foreign talent recruitment programs. Additionally, activities similar to those described above but not labeled as a foreign talent recruitment program must be disclosed (e.g., affiliations or appointments at another institution, whether or not remuneration is received, and whether full-time, part-time, or voluntary—including adjunct, visiting, or honorary).

Researchers should include all affiliations—foreign and domestic—on their Biosketch. Additionally, some affiliations or participation in foreign talent recruitment programs may also meet the definition of other support. If so, researchers should disclose the activity as described in the “current and pending” section above.

Prior to accepting any affiliation with another institution that requires a commitment of time or resources, and irrespective of whether the affiliation is compensated or not, UWF faculty need to disclose the activity to their department leadership and receive approval. This includes participation in foreign talent recruitment programs or other affiliations/appointments at another institution. Disclosure to UWF requires that UWF faculty complete the “Disclosure of Outside Activities and Financial Interests” form and submit it to their Chair or Supervisor. Additional information on UWF’s disclosure of outside activities process is within UWF’s "Conflict of Interest webpage."

(*This page is adapted from the University of Florida’s Research site: https://research.ufl.edu/foreign-activities-disclosure.html*)