Frequently Asked Questions
Foreign influence or undue foreign influence are terms used to describe the federal government's concerns over foreign governments and entities' influence in academia which could negatively impact the United State's economic competitiveness and national security. The four main areas of concern are:
- Peer review violations
- Failure to disclose substantial foreign resources, including but not limited to: foreign employment arrangements, foreign grant support that creates problem with overlap, or over-commitment, foreign talents programs.
- Failure to disclose significant foreign financial conflicts of interest
- Diversion of proprietary or pre-publication information disclosed in grant applications or produced by US-supported research to those not authorized to receive it (theft of intellectual property)
- Compliance with regulatory requirements including US Export Control laws and regulations, which establish a set of requirements for the transfer of technology and data to foreign countries and/or foreign nationals in the US and sanctions from the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which restrict interactions with individuals or entities on the sanctions list.
These concerns resulted in new legislation, federal investigations, and updated disclosure requirements, emphasizing the importance for researchers and universities to disclose accurately, properly and consistently and establish practices to reduce the risks.
Please explore this website which contains general information (How to get started, Basics) along with activity specific information (Federal Sponsored Projects and Other Research Activities). In addition, please continue to monitor our website and campus emails for announcements of changes since this is an evolving compliance area (Updates).
If you have specific questions, please refer to our Contacts page.
- Failing to disclose all the required information such as foreign outside financial interests, relationships and affiliations.
- Not disclosing participation in a foreign talents program as Other Support/Current & Pending Support to the federal agency.
- Not disclosing receipt of foreign government grants or research funding.
- Not disclosing position/appointment/time commitment at foreign institutions.
- Having inconsistent information across the many disclosures collected for research proposals and awards, conflict of commitment, conflict of interest and other publicly available information (ex. publications).
- For example, disclosing consulting activity in your conflict of commitment form (UC OATS) but not including the income received from those consulting activities in your financial disclosures to Conflict of Interest for your NIH research project.
Below are some of the press releases and news articles related to the results of the foreign influence investigations from the federal government on university researchers:
- Harvard University Professor and Two Chinese Nationals Charged in Three Separate China Related Cases January 28, 2020
- Researcher at University Arrested for Wire Fraud and Making False Statements About Affiliation with a Chinese University February 27, 2020
- Former Emory University Professor and Chinese “Thousand Talents” Participant Convicted and Sentenced for Filing a False Tax Return May 11, 2020
- NASA Researcher Arrested for False Statements and Wire Fraud in Relation to China’s Talents Program: Texas A&M University Professor Working on U.S. Space Projects Allegedly Hid Affiliations with Chinese State Owned Academic and Commercial Institution August 24, 2020
Per the FBI Public Service Announcement:
"A foreign-government-sponsored talent recruitment program is an effort to recruit science and technology professors, researchers, and even students, which is directly or indirectly organized, managed, or funded by a foreign government or institution. Individuals are often recruited without regard to citizenship or national origin, and positions may be full or part-time. Foreign-government-sponsored talent recruitment programs often seek to import or otherwise acquire proprietary
technology or software, unpublished data and methods, and intellectual property from abroad—sometimes obtained through illicit means—to modernize the foreign nation’s military and grow its economy.
Undisclosed obligations to a foreign-government-sponsored talent recruitment program may distort decisions about the appropriate use of taxpayer funds when grant-funding agencies, unaware of an employee’s foreign obligations and funding streams, awards an employee a federal grant. Further, for some projects, undisclosed participation may pose risks to U.S. national security as it is not possible to properly assess potential harm without knowing an individual’s obligation to a foreign government."
Many federal agencies have restrictions or prohibitions regarding researchers on their sponsored projects participating in a foreign government sponsored talent recruitment program.