International Research Collaborations Frequently Asked Questions

Page Updated: July 27, 2020

The following answers to frequently asked questions represent the best information RSP 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 RSP at irc@rsp.wisc.edu.

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

Though the term “foreign influence” has not been assigned a singular definition by the Federal government, it is described in the NSF JASON report as conduct that “might run counter to the U.S. values of science ethics.” Examples include reward – “offering of material or social goods in exchange for desired behavior”; deception – “providing incomplete, incorrect information on an application, proposal, or publication for the purpose of hiding or directing attention away from some activity”; coercion – “the threat of harm or disadvantage for the purpose of enforcing compliance with a demand”; and theft – “the taking of a physical object or protected idea without permission of the owner.” The Federal government asserts that these unethical means of influence are being used to acquire U.S. science and technology information.

Federal agencies are concerned about issues including diversion of intellectual property produced by federally-sponsored research to foreign entities or governments; sharing of confidential information by peer reviewers with foreign entities; and failure by some researchers to disclose substantial contributions of resources from other organizations. Agencies also question whether incomplete disclosures have resulted in inappropriate funding decisions.

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.

No. Federal agencies and UW-Madison’s leadership have expressed the critical importance of international research collaborations. UW-Madison values these collaborations and intends to continue providing a welcoming environment for international scholars and students.

UW-Madison is staying abreast of these issues through their engagement with the Council on Governmental Relations, the Federal Demonstration Partnership, and other national organizations.

A working group has been convened through the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education to help faculty and staff understand the issues and their obligations. Specific questions from faculty and staff may be addressed as described on this website or to the following email address: irc@rsp.wisc.edu.

Individuals should contact Ben Griffiths, (608) 263-7400, in the Office of Legal Affairs to discuss the situation and determine appropriate next steps.

Other Support

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 University of Wisconsin-Madison, 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 University of Wisconsin-Madison 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-Madison.)
  • 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 University of Wisconsin-Madison 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-University of Wisconsin-Madison agreement in which foreign funds or other resources are provided to the faculty for activities either at University of Wisconsin-Madison 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.

Yes. Other Support includes foreign and domestic research collaborations that directly benefit the researcher’s research endeavors.

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

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 UW PI and the visit is not related to a grant or contract, then the UW PI is being paid from UW-Madison sources.
  2. In the second instance, where the visitor and the UW 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 UW.

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.

Other Support or Outside Activities

If the funding to visit China is run through the UW-Madison (RSP set up project), then there is no need to report on your Outside Activities Report. 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 your Outside Activities Report and identify the outside funding source. The funds may also need to be included on Other Support.

  • The appropriate steps depend on the purpose of the visit.
  • Before the professor and students visit, it is recommended you contact the Export Controls Office 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.
  • Also, before they visit, please contact International Faculty and Staff Services (ischolars@ohr.wisc.edu) to see what immigration options exist so they can legally enter the United States.
  • 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 UW 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 on the Outside Activities Report or as Other Support.

If you have any federal funding, you must report this travel on your Outside Activities Report. If this activity is directly related to your duties within the University, it’s likely this is not problematic. 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.

The policy and guidance are the resources that are in place to inform investigators of expectations. It is ultimately the responsibility of the investigator to ensure that Other Support is properly reported, and the PI should seek additional guidance if reporting obligations are unclear.

Yes, at the discretion of the faculty member it is allowable to provide staff assisting with the preparation of Other Support documents with a complete list of the faculty’s outside activities to allow the staff to make the initial draft of the Other Support documents. However, faculty should NOT provide staff with direct access to their OAR by sharing Net ID and password. And, faculty have the obligation to carefully review Other Support documents prepared by staff to ensure they are complete and accurate because faculty are ultimately responsible for the accuracy and completeness of Other Support documents even if prepared by staff.

Right now, there is no connection between OAR and Other Support, and the OAR captures certain information that is not reportable as Other Support, such as an ownership interest in a domestic corporation. However, we believe that anything reported on the OAR related to an individual’s research endeavors should be reported on Other Support, particularly those items related to any foreign relationship.

  • Yes. For example, participation in a foreign talent program needs to be reported as Other Support even if not directly related to the scope of work on Federally-funded awards.
  • This funding needs to be reported on the PI’s OAR if the funding is NOT through a sponsored project (funds 133 or 144). The funding could create a conflict of commitment with the PI’s Federal funding. UW resources and staff could be used in the execution of the funded research.

Miscellaneous

Ultimately, it is the PI’s responsibility to ensure compliance with DOE and other applicable government requirements. UW-Madison has a number of offices available to assist the PI comply with these requirements, including RSP, Conflict of Interest Office and Export Control Office. DOE awards may require certification that individuals working on a project are not also participating in a foreign talent program. If such a requirement is incorporated into the contract, RSP will facilitate reporting to DOE. For new awards or modifications, please contact the RSP Contracts team negotiator assigned to the WISPER record. For existing awards, please contact the RSP Post-Award accountant for your award.

The 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 RSP. Prepare a letter explaining the relationship and route it in WISPER to the Proposals team. RSP will then submit the request to the funding NIH Institute/Center for action.