Learn how to ensure all research support and international collaboration is appropriately disclosed to federal sponsors and Cornell.
Over the past several months, federal agencies have expressed growing concerns about foreign influence on the integrity of research conducted in or for U.S. institutions. In response to these perceived threats from foreign governments, new policies and regulations are being promulgated by these agencies to ensure disclosure of U.S. participation with foreign entities and actors.
In May 2019, Cornell’s Vice Provost for Research and Vice Provost for International Affairs issued a memo to the Cornell research community reaffirming Cornell’s commitment to international partnerships and activities, and summarizing best practices and resources available to support Cornell researchers. To read more, please review Cornell’s Global Engagement Memo – May 2019.
While Cornell’s commitment to international collaborations and global engagement remains unchanged, there are certain steps that Cornell and other U.S. universities must take to ensure compliance with existing regulations and requirements. Federal guidance on foreign influence places significant importance on transparency in research activities and the disclosure of relationships with international partners and collaborators. To assist Cornell researchers and research administrators with meeting these transparency requirements, the information below provides a summary of obligations to federal sponsors and Cornell.
What are federal agencies saying?
Several federal agencies have issued statements regarding the U.S. Government’s commitment to safeguarding U.S-based research and intellectual property, and reiterating the disclosure obligations associated with federally funded work. Much of the focus has been on the failure by some federally funded researchers in the US to disclose resources from other organizations. The message from the federal funding agencies is clear: investigators and their universities must completely disclose all research support and foreign activities to their federal funding sponsors through documentation of other support/current and pending, CV/biosketch, foreign components, and financial conflict of interest
Most significantly, these clarified requirements extend the scope of required reporting beyond that which is attributable to an investigator’s affiliation with Cornell as disclosure requirements are now agnostic as to the source or location of other support. No longer can researchers or their administrators rely solely on Cornell’s records to generate a Current & Pending document. Instead, investigators must complete and update their Current & Pending document based on the totality of their research support, both within and outside of Cornell.
Disclosing Foreign Activities to Cornell
Annual Conflict of Interest Disclosure
As part of the annual financial conflict of interest disclosure, researchers are required to report the time they have spent working for, consulting with, or traveling for non-Cornell entities regardless of compensation for these activities. This information is required for Conflict of Commitment reporting to Departments and Colleges and to identify possible foreign influences on research integrity. Disclosures should include:
- Visiting or other academic positions at domestic and foreign institutions
- Work or travel on behalf of any of the following, whether domestic or foreign;
- academic institutions (other than Cornell)
- U.S. and foreign governments
- industry or trade groups
- private or public companies (including as an investor or any other role)
- Domestic and foreign consulting relationships
Disclosures do not need to include travel for the sole purpose of a personal vacation or to attend a conference.
Each proposal submission by Cornell should be completed in RASS. In addition to capturing project information and approvals, this system includes a checkbox to record foreign activities related to the project. Such activities may include foreign collaborators, foreign consultants, subcontracts to foreign entities, overseas shipments, or travel to foreign countries. This checkbox will alert Grant & Contract Officers who may advise that consultation with other Cornell offices (i.e. Global Operations or the Export Control Office) is necessary or helpful to the success of the project.
Disclosing Foreign Activities to External Sponsors
Disclosing Foreign Affiliations in CV/Biosketch
Many federal agencies, including NIH, have cited foreign government-sponsored talent recruitment programs as a perceived threat to U.S. research. Participation in these 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 Cornell require disclosure of participation in foreign talent recruitment programs. Please see here for the DOE’s definition of a foreign talent program.
Researchers must list all positions and scientific appointments both domestic and foreign, including affiliations with foreign entities or governments. This includes titled academic, professional or institutional appointments whether or not remuneration is received, and whether full-time, part-time or voluntary (including adjunct, visiting, or honorary) in their CV/Biosketch.
Disclosing Foreign Activities to NSF in Current & Pending and Biographical Sketch
Disclosing Foreign Activities to NIH as Other Support
For details, see the NIH: Disclosing Other Support and Foreign Components.
NIH requires all senior/key personnel to disclose all resources made available to a researcher in support of and/or related to all of their research endeavors, regardless of whether or not they have monetary value and regardless of whether they are based at the institution the researcher identifies for the current grant. This means that even if the researcher performs the activity outside of their Cornell employment or at a location other than Cornell, the researcher must disclose the activity to NIH if it supports or relates to their 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:
- Domestic and foreign grants and contracts, whether provided through Cornell, another institution, or to the researcher directly
- Financial support for laboratory personnel (e.g., students, postdocs, or scholars working in a researcher’s lab at Cornell and who are supported by a foreign entity either through salary, stipend, or receipt of living or travel expenses)
- Provision of lab space at another institution, foreign or domestic
- Provision of scientific materials that are not freely available for use at Cornell or another institution where the faculty is working (e.g., biologics, chemical, model systems, technology, equipment, etc.)
- Travel expenses directly paid or reimbursed by a an outside entity
- Living expenses directly paid or reimbursed by an outside entity
- Other funding (e.g., salary, stipend, honoraria, etc.) paid to a Cornell researcher by an outside entity.
This includes resource and/or financial support from all foreign and domestic entities, including but not limited to, financial support for laboratory personnel, and provision of high-value materials that are not freely available (e.g., biologics, chemical, model systems, technology, etc.).
Because the scope of required disclosure is not limited to those research activities at Cornell, researchers must take an active role in reviewing their Other Support documents to ensure that all necessary disclosures have been made. While Cornell administrators can assist in identifying Cornell related activities, all outside activities must be compiled by the researcher for inclusion in the Other Support document.
Disclosing Foreign Activities to NIH as Foreign Component
For details, see NIH: Disclosing Other Support and Foreign Components.
NIH defines Foreign Component 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.
Activities that would meet this definition include, but are not limited to;
- the involvement of human subjects or animals
- extensive foreign travel by recipient project staff for the purpose of data collection, surveying, sampling, and similar activities
- any activity of the recipient that may have an impact on U.S. foreign policy through involvement in the affairs or environment of a foreign country
Examples of activities that may be considered a significant element include;
- collaborations with investigators at a foreign site anticipated to result in co-authorship
- use of facilities or instrumentation at a foreign site
- receipt of financial support or resources from a foreign entity
Foreign Components in Proposal Submissions: Applications which include a foreign component must answer yes to Question 6 of the R&R Other Project Information Form and include a "Foreign Justification" in Field 12, Other Attachments of the same R&R Other Project Information Form. This justification must describe the special resources or characteristics of the research project to outline why the facilities or other aspects of the proposed project are more appropriate at a foreign rather than a domestic setting.
Post-Award Addition of a Foreign Component: Consistent with Section 8.1.2 of the NIH Grants Policy Statement, researchers wishing to add a Foreign Component to an existing NIH award, prior approval by NIH must be secured. To seek prior approval, researchers and their administrators should contact their Grant & Contract Officer to initiate the prior approval request.