International Collaborations & Programs

Adapted with permission from the University of Wisconsin-Madison

The university values the contributions of and collaborations with scholars from around the world. The diverse scholarly community and the openness of the scholarly enterprise has enabled discoveries that create a better nation and world. The university is committed to scholarly collaboration and openness, and also acknowledges the importance of being transparent about foreign relationships and activities. 

These relationships and activities are being paid increased scrutiny. The campus community should be aware that disclosures of relationships and activities are receiving national attention and impacting institutions of higher education around the country. Members of Congress and several federal sponsors have expressed significant concerns about perceived undue influence on the US research enterprise.

It is clear that all federal agencies take this issue very seriously. The best advice at this point is to be sure to disclose any and all activities that involve a foreign entity.

International Research Collaborations

Communications from Federal Agencies expanding section

National Institutes of Health

In August 2018, Dr. Francis Collins issued a letter to grantees and published a Statement on Protecting the Integrity of U.S. Biomedical Research. In these documents, NIH highlighted the following areas of concern:

  1. Diversion of intellectual property in grant applications or produced by NIH-supported biomedical research to other entities, including other countries;
  2. Sharing of confidential information by peer reviewers with others, including with foreign entities, or otherwise attempting to influence funding decisions; and
  3. Failure by some researchers at NIH-funded institutions to disclose substantial contributions of resources from other organizations, including foreign governments, which threatens to distort decisions about the appropriate use of NIH funds.

In July 2019, NIH issued Reminders of NIH Policies on Other Support and on Policies related to Financial Conflicts of Interest and Foreign Components and accompanying FAQs on Other Support and Foreign Components. The NIH’s Advisory Committee to the Director Working Group on Foreign Influences on Research Integrity continues to work to address concerns.

In July 2020, NIH released a website on Protecting U.S. Biomedical Intellectual Innovation. The site describes NIH concerns and requirements for disclosures, as well as explains responsibilities of institutions and the NIH.

National Science Foundation

The National Science Board, in October 2018, issued a Statement of the National Science Board on Security and Science, which emphasizes that “U.S. universities and colleges must help promote scientific openness and integrity and safeguard information that impacts national security and economic competitiveness.” The Director of the NSF released a Dear Colleague Letter on Research Protection in July 2019. NSF also issued a policy that their agency personnel and IPAs may not participate in foreign government talent recruitment programs. NSF commissioned a study and report from JASON on Fundamental Research Security, which proposed steps that NSF can take to improve the security of fundamental research.

Department of Energy

The Department of Energy (DOE) released a Memorandum in January 2019 that contains a policy prohibiting DOE personnel from participating in foreign talent recruitment programs. DOE provided further guidance in Order 486.1 to their employees and contractors.

Department of Defense

The Department of Defense (DoD) issued a Memorandum in March 2019 that delineated information to be provided for senior/key personnel as part of a proposal and that the information would be used for purposes including protection of intellectual property and limiting undue influence. DoD also issued, in October 2019, a letter to universities and research centers describing their efforts to protect the integrity of the U.S. research enterprise and asking for support in doing so.

Office of Science and Technology Policy

In June 2020, OSTP released a presentation on Enhancing the Security and Integrity of America’s Research Enterprise. This presentation highlights some specific cases and areas of ongoing concern. OSTP is working on additional guidance for academic research institutions.

In September 2019, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy sent a Letter to the United States Research Community in which he emphasizes the importance of protecting the integrity of our nation’s research enterprise.

We expect federal agencies to release further guidance over the coming months, so be aware that information and requirements might change at any time. In the meantime, we encourage faculty and staff to reacquaint themselves with existing policies and procedures. Select information (not a comprehensive list) is included below.

Sponsored Research Agreements expanding section

See the Assistance with Contracts webpage for guidance. Contact the Office of Research & Sponsored Programs (ORSP) and the Contract Administrator for assistance.

Performance of Work Outside the United States (for Proposals & Progress Reports) expanding section

Interactions with Foreign Institutions & Scholars

External Influence & Interest Reporting expanding section

To ensure that any potential conflicts of interest - foreign or domestic - are identified and managed appropriately, faculty/staff applying for federal funding must accurately disclose covered financial and business interests, activities, and support through the Significant Financial Interest (SFI) Disclosure Form in accordance with the Financial Conflicts of Interest (FCOI) policy. For example, faculty/staff must disclose the following interests from any foreign entity in any amount:

  • Compensation
  • Honoraria
  • Paid authorship
  • Consulting fees
  • Ownership interests
  • Investments
  • Intellectual property rights and interests
  • Royalties
  • Reimbursements
  • Sponsorships
Grant Proposal Information (e.g., Current & Pending Support) expanding section

Investigators are personally responsible for including in their Current & Pending Support (or other relevant) sponsored project documents all sources of foreign support consistent with the funding agency's requirements. NIH, in particular, currently states: "Other Support includes all financial resources, whether Federal, non-Federal, commercial or institutional, available in direct support of an individual’s research endeavors, including but not limited to research grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, and/or institutional awards. Training awards, prizes, or gifts do not need to be included.” As noted in NIH director Collins’ letter, there have been instances reported nationally of investigators failing to properly report sources of foreign support for their research. NSF and other agencies have also voiced concern. Failing to report other sources of domestic or foreign support increases the likelihood that the same or closely related research could be funded more than once, and increases the potential for allegations of fraud, as well as overlap in intellectual property obligations to employers and the government. Careful attention to the specific requirements of an individual Funding Opportunity Announcement/FOA is warranted.

Proper Handling of Peer Reviewed Proposals expanding section

Investigators involved in the peer review process are expected to follow the stringent confidentiality requirements of proposals undergoing review. NIH director Collins also reported instances (nationally) of study section reviewers inappropriately sharing proposals undergoing peer review with domestic and foreign collaborators.

Invention Disclosures expanding section

Under UW System and university policy, all inventions discovered by faculty, staff, or students on appointment while pursuing their university duties, or on university premises, or with university supplies or equipment must be disclosed to the WiSys Technology Foundation. See UWL Intellectual Property, Inventions, and Patents guidance and UW System Administrative (UWSA) Policy 346: Patents and Inventions. Once an invention is disclosed, UWL's WiSys Regional Associate will conduct an equity review to ensure that the proprietary rights and responsibilities of the university, our personnel, and outside parties are honored.

Gifts expanding section

All gifts and gift solicitations with foreign organizations or entities must be disclosed, accepted, and reported in compliance with the UW-La Crosse Foundation's Gift Acceptance and Reporting Guidelines.

International Travel expanding section

For university employees travelling internationally for business, there are several things to be aware of and resources available to make your international travel safe and compliant with university guidelines and federal laws.

Health Concerns

It is recommended that employees check with their health provider well in advance of any international travel to ensure all necessary vaccines are up to date. Be aware if specific vaccines are required/recommended for your destinations these often must be given a month or more before travel.

Traveling with Technology

Using laptops, email, and other technology outside the U.S. can entail elevated risks of data compromise or loss. For best practices to mitigate these risks, contact Information Technology Services (ITS).

Students

UWL's Office of International Education & Engagement (IEE) provides resources and support for university-sponsored student travel. It is important that student travelers understand university requirements before planning travel. Additionally, it must be remembered that UW System policy requires all students who travel abroad under university sponsorship to enroll in CISI, the university’s medical, health and evacuation insurance. Contact IEE for additional information.

Export Controls & Sanctions expanding section

Federal export regulations govern shipments and release of certain sensitive commodities, technologies, and software to non-US locations and persons. In addition, economic sanctions rules can significantly affect educational and research activities involving Cuba, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Sudan, and the Crimea region of Ukraine. The university is committed to compliance with these requirements, and personnel are encouraged to contact Business Services with any questions or concerns, or the Office of Research & Sponsored Programs (ORSP) for questions related to research or sponsored projects.

Import/Export of Tangible Research Materials & Biological Samples expanding section

The FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies have increased their surveillance efforts to identify transport of research materials and verify that those exports comply with federal laws. We’re told that these efforts are part of a nation-wide enforcement action to control the transport of biological materials that may present a threat to our national security, or reduce the theft of intellectual property developed in the US, much of it with federal funds.

Biological Research Materials

Laboratories that plan to import or export biological-source research materials should first contact the UWL Institutional Bio-safety Committee (IBC). Permits from federal agencies in the US are often required for import or export of such materials. Specific language is often required on shipping documentation for incoming items that don’t require an import permit. If laboratories are exporting biological materials, the recipient should verify that they are in compliance with the destination country’s applicable import regulations. In addition, individuals that are shipping biological materials may be required to have a current biological Hazardous Material Shipping certification.

Sending Tangible Research Materials Outside the US

When sending tangible research materials outside the US, researchers must ensure that the materials are sent out under a material transfer agreement (MTA). The process for putting an MTA in place may be initiated by following the procedures outlined on the Assistance with Contracts webpage.

International Agreements expanding section

Faculty and staff developing non-research-related international agreements, which typically are non-monetary, non-binding documents that formalize an institution-to-institution partnership with a foreign entity (e.g. Memorandum of Understanding), should work closely with the UWL Office of International Education & Engagement (IEE) and Contract Administrator. These partners will help ensure international agreements generate mutual benefit, set realistic expectations, manage risks, adhere to campus, state, and federal policies, and are signed by someone with authority to sign on behalf of the university.

Foreign Visiting Scientists & Scholars expanding section

Foreign scientists and scholars are a welcome addition to our campus, and the university supports such collaborations. Departments are responsible for verifying the employment eligibility and/or proper US immigration status of their visiting scientists and scholars. Please contact Human Resources for assistance with any immigration or visa-related issues.

International Research Collaborations FAQs

The following answers to frequently asked questions represent the best information ORSP currently has. As the federal sponsors provide additional information or guidance, we will update these questions and answers as necessary. If you have questions, please contact ORSP.

Note: These FAQs often use “Other Support.” Keep in mind this term is generally used by NIH. Other agencies use the term “Current and Pending Support.” These terms refer to the same requirements.

General

What are the concerns regarding "foreign influence" related to sponsored programs? expanding section
What are areas of concern for federal sponsors that researchers need to be aware of? expanding section
What are foreign government talent recruitment programs and why are they concerning? expanding section

While there is no standard definition of a foreign government talent recruitment program across the Federal government, the Department of Energy provided some characteristic information in DOE Order 486.1. Excerpts from the Order include the following:

  • 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
  • Compensation provided by the foreign state to the targeted individual in exchange for the individual transferring their knowledge and expertise to the foreign country…[may take] forms, such as cash, research funding, honorific titles, career advancement opportunities, promised future compensation, or other types of remuneration or consideration
  • Recruitment…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.
  • 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.

The United States Senate (2019) issued a report describing concerns that participation in foreign government talent recruitment programs may involve conduct that is contrary to the values of the U.S. research enterprise, which include reciprocity, integrity, merit-based competition, and transparency.

Given the federal government's concerns, should I decrease the amount of my international collaborations or stop welcoming foreign students and visitors in my lab? expanding section

No. Federal agencies and university leadership have expressed the critical importance of international research collaborations. UWL values these collaborations and intends to continue providing a welcoming environment for international scholars and students.

What should I do if I am participating in a foreign talent program and have not previously disclosed it? expanding section

Individuals should contact ORSP to discuss the situation and determine appropriate next steps.

Other/Current & Pending Support

What items should be included in my Other/Current and Pending Support documents? expanding section

Refer to the funding agency's specific guidance for completing Other/Current and Pending Support documents. Many federal agencies are revising their instructions regarding Other Support. They request similar, though not uniform, information and provide somewhat ambiguous instructions. Given these factors, below are some clarifying statements to standardize and set expectations on what to include in Other/Current and Pending Support documents submitted by UWL.

  • Any activity conducted within the scope of an Investigator’s UWL appointment that provides funding or requires a commitment of time must be reported.
    • Commitments are regular obligations of time (part of an investigator’s regular activities), not short-term obligations, such as attending a meeting and making a presentation.
    • If an investigator has a commitment for an activity but is receiving no salary support from the activity (salary is cost shared by the University), that activity must be reported.
    • Typically, activities that provide funding or have a quantifiable commitment of time are Federal or Non-Federal sponsored projects (fund 144 or 133).
    • Even if a research project does not involve a quantifiable commitment of time, if the PI/senior key personnel is spending time on the project, the project should be included.
    • Awards resulting from internally-funded competitions, such as UWL and UW System grants, should be included.
  • All collaborations and affiliations that provide funding or require a commitment of time must be reported, whether foreign or domestic.

As appropriate:

  • Include the proposal being submitted as a pending proposal.
  • Address potential overlap or over-commitments. As this is a primary concern of Federal agencies, please be clear in your explanations.
  • List projects with no-cost extensions.
  • Update information as much as possible, e.g., remove outdated proposals or expired awards, unless specifically requested by sponsor, such as DoD.

As sponsor guidance may change, pay close attention to the sponsor’s instructions in the request for proposal, policy guide, etc. on how to prepare these documents. Each sponsor may request slightly different information or require that it be provided following their own format.

Investigators and departments should be prepared to respond to a sponsor’s questions about the information provided in Other Support.

Who is responsible for ensuring accuracy of Other/Current and Pending Support documents? expanding section

It is the investigator's responsibility to ensure the accuracy of Other/Current and Pending Support documents, in accord with the application guidelines or the sponsor's instructions.

What are specific examples of commitments that should be included in Other Support documents? expanding section

The following examples are based on guidance from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Both agencies have indicated that Other Support should include all resources made available to a researcher in support of and/or related to all of an individual’s research endeavors. We recommend researchers disclose relationships with foreign entities regardless of sponsor. We also advise researchers to follow the guidance below for all federal agencies and to pay close attention to any agency-specific instructions for preparing other support documents. Guidance from federal agencies is evolving and may change over time.

Examples of activities that should be reported include:

  • Selection to or participation in a foreign “talents” or similar type of program, whether compensated or uncompensated.
  • Domestic and foreign grants and contracts, whether provided through UW-La Crosse, 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 UW-La Crosse and who are supported by a foreign or domestic entity either through salary, stipend, or receipt of living or travel expenses). (This would not include individuals who are paid directly by UW-La Crosse.)
  • Provision of in-kind research support by another institution, foreign or domestic, including lab space, equipment, supplies, and employee time.
  • Any agreement with a foreign university for which the UW-La Crosse faculty member directs non-UW students, postdocs, or other research personnel affiliated with that university.
  • Any contractual agreement with a foreign institution/company or foreign government agency.
  • Any non-UW-La Crosse agreement in which foreign funds or other resources are provided to the faculty for activities either at UW-La Crosse or at a foreign institution.
  • Consulting agreements, whether formally contracted or informally agreed to, and whether or not they are for compensation, with foreign or domestic entities, governments, companies, universities, etc.
Does Other Support need to include visiting scholars who are being supported through other funding, i.e., funds other than 144 or 133? expanding section

Yes, report visiting scholars on Other Support if a visiting scholar contributes to the individual’s research endeavors.

Should faculty commit effort to host visiting scholars? expanding section

No. We believe the faculty member’s time has already been taken into account and no additional effort should be attributed to hosting a visiting scholar.

  1. In the instance where a visiting scholar spends time with the UWL PI and the visit is not related to a grant or contract, then the UWL PI is being paid from UWL sources.
  2. In the second instance, where the visitor and the UWL PI are engaged in activities that relate to a sponsored grant or contract, the PI’s effort on the project is either being paid by the project or cost-shared by UWL.
Does a PI have to report foreign government funding on Other Support/Current & Pending documents if that funding is not related to any of their current federal funding? expanding section
Should foreign individuals who visit for non-research purposes be disclosed in Other Support documents? expanding section

No. Hosting foreign individuals for non-research purposes, such as visits by foreign dignitaries, consular officials, and visits relating to international academic exchange programs, are not considered Other Support. Such visits may need to be flagged for other reasons, for example, to ensure compliance with export control regulations.

I would like to invite a group of professors and/or students from a foreign country to visit UWL. What do I need to disclose and when? expanding section
  • Before the professor and students visit, it is recommended you contact Business Services to determine if they are coming from a restricted organization or country. This can affect what the visitors can do on campus or where they can visit. 
  • If the visit is likely to result in scientific collaborations or publications, you should include these scholars on future Other Support documents. 
  • If you host the visitors as part of your UWL activities, the visit is for academic or outreach purposes, and no data will be exchanged in the course of the visit, there is nothing to report as Other Support. 
I am a US collaborator for a project that includes grant funding for me to visit another country. What should I report and in what documents? expanding section

If the grant funding to visit the other country is run through UWL, this funding should be included on your Other Support documents. 

However, if the funds for the collaboration are paid to you directly, or the other institution is paying directly for the travel, then you should report this on any Significant Financial Interest (SFI) Disclosure Form you complete for extramural funding and identify the outside funding source. The funds may also need to be included on Other Support. 

I was invited to chair a session at an international conference, which covers my airfare to the conference. Should I report this on Other Support? expanding section

This does not need to be reported on Other Support documents because the presumption is that it did not involve a substantial commitment of time.

I would like to engage in a foreign collaboration for my NIH project. How would I go about doing this? expanding section

NIH may likely consider such a collaboration to be a foreign component, 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.” Activities that meet this definition may include:

  • collaborations with investigators at a foreign site anticipated to result in co-authorship;
  • use of facilities or instrumentation at a foreign site; or
  • receipt of financial support or resources from a foreign entity.

If the activity meets the definition of foreign component, one of the following actions will be required:

  • If you are submitting a new or competitive renewal application to the NIH, see the applicable application instructions for the Research & Related (R&R) Other Project Information Form, in part 6.
  • If you are proposing a new foreign component mid-project for an ongoing NIH award, it may be appropriate to either:
    • Propose the new foreign involvement in your Research Performance Progress Report or
    • Submit a prior approval request through ORSP. Prepare a letter explaining the relationship and route it to ORSP. ORSP will then submit the request to the funding NIH Institute/Center for action.