Rice University strongly supports faculty, staff, and students in establishing collaborations for domestic and international research and scholarly activities. It is through collaboration that leading research institutions partner to solve global challenges in health, energy and the environment. However, there has been increased attention from federal sponsors, members of congress, federal intelligence and security agencies expressing concern regarding undue foreign influence in academic research such as, unauthorized access to intellectual property in grant applications and failure by investigators to disclose affiliations, collaborations, and all resources for research support. Federal sponsors continue to issue clarifications, guidance, and updates to existing requirements. It is important for researchers to be aware of these developments to ensure compliance with federal requirements. There are recent examples at other universities of federal inquires and request for information from investigators and institutions identified as failing to disclose this information as violations of the granting agency polices.
Specifics from Federal Sponsors
National Institutes of Health
NIH Deputy Director, Dr. Francis Collins, issued a letter to the research community with NIH’s three areas of concern:
- Diversion of intellectual property (IP) in grant applications or produced by NIH¬ supported biomedical research to other entities, including other countries;
- Sharing of confidential information on grant applications by NIH peer reviewers with others, including foreign entities, or otherwise attempting to influence funding decisions; and
- Failure by some researchers working at NIH-funded institutions in the U.S. to disclose substantial resources from other organizations, including foreign governments, which threatens to distort decisions about the appropriate use of NIH funds.
One of the most relevant emerging requirements includes clarification that all sources of support (both domestic and foreign) must be disclosed, including but not limited to: research support, financial interests, collaborations, affiliations, appointments, industry support, and support from private, foreign, state, or local governments. Disclosure is required for both academic and summer activities regardless of whether the work is supported through a Rice sponsored agreement or not.
NIH has reminded the research community that Investigators must “disclose all forms of other support and financial interest, including support coming from foreign governments or other foreign entities…in accordance with the NIH Grants Policy Statement, [on] all applications and progress reports”, NOT-OD-18-160. Significant Financial interest is broad, and includes forms of compensation, equity, sponsored/reimbursed travel, or Intellectual Property.
NIH issued NOT-OD-19-114 to remind applicants and recipients that “other support includes 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 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.).”
NIH clarified and reminded the extramural community in Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) the need to report foreign activities through documentation of other support, foreign components, and financial conflict of interest to prevent scientific, budgetary, or commitment overlap.
NIH Other Support
NIH interprets “financial resources” broadly. NIH FAQ states in the interest of full transparency, recipients should err on the side of disclosure. It is not just salary support an individual receives from another project, but also other forms of support of the individual’s research, e.g.:
- Individual named on another project, but not receiving salary support
- Individual carries out research efforts under an appointment or affiliation with a foreign institution or entity and that institution provides support in the form of non-monetary resources
Other Support Form
Report all resources and other support for all individuals designated in an application as senior/key personnel – including for the program director/principal investigator (PD/PI) and for other individuals who contribute to the scientific development or execution of a project in a substantive, measurable way, whether or not they request salaries or compensation. Information must be provided about all current support for ongoing projects, irrespective of whether such support is provided through the applicant organization, through another domestic or foreign organization, or is provided directly to an individual that supports the senior/key personnel’s research efforts.
Report all current projects and activities that involve senior/key personnel, even if the support received is only in-kind (e.g. office/laboratory space, equipment, supplies, employees). All research resources including, but not limited to, foreign financial support, research or laboratory personnel, lab space, scientific materials, selection to a foreign “talents” or similar-type program, or other foreign or domestic support must be reported.
Provide the total award amount for the entire award period covered (including facilities and administrative costs), as well as the number of person-months (or partial person-months) per year to be devoted to the project by the senior/key personnel involved.
Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources
Reporting of non-financial resources is required in the Facilities and Other Resources section of the grant application. The NIH Notice includes a requirement to also report in-kind resources and other collaborators (domestic and foreign) as Other Support. Note that in-kind resources could also include visitors to the institution’s lab who are paid directly by outside sources.
Report in-kind support, such as a laboratory space or major lab equipment, particularly in support of research performed outside the applicant institution. In-kind support may be reported in the Facilities and Other Resources or Other Support sections of the application, as long as the information is clearly disclosed.
List all positions and scientific appointments both domestic and foreign held by senior/key personnel that are relevant to an application 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).
Key personnel must disclose affiliations or appointments that are likely to be cited in NIH-funded publications in the biosketch section of the application.
In addition, at the proposal stage the SF424 application question number 6 of the research and related other project information section asks the following question regarding foreign components*:
6. a. * Does this project involve activities outside the U.S. or partnership with International Collaborators? Yes No
6. b. If yes, identify countries:
6. c. Optional Explanation:
If any work will be done in a foreign country this should also be included in the performance sites section of the application.
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, (1) the involvement of human subjects or animals, (2) extensive foreign travel by recipient project staff for the purpose of data collection, surveying, sampling, and similar activities, or (3) 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 other grant-related activities that may be significant are:
- 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.
Foreign travel for consultation is not considered a foreign component.
The existence of any “significant scientific element or segment of a project” outside of the United States, in other words
1. performance of work by a researcher or recipient in a foreign location, whether or not NIH grant funds are expended and/or
2. performance of work by a researcher in a foreign location employed or paid for by a foreign organization, whether or not NIH grant funds are expended.
For example, if a PD/PI of an NIH-funded grant has a collaborator outside of the U.S. who performs experiments in support of the PD/PI’s NIH-funded project, this would constitute a foreign component, regardless of whether the foreign collaborator receives funding from the PD/PI’s grant. Additional funding from a foreign source for the NIH-supported research of a PD/PI at a U.S. institution would not constitute a foreign component but would necessitate reporting as other support. If an activity does not meet the definition of foreign component because all research is being conducted within the United States, but there is a non-U.S. resource that supports the research of an investigator and/or researcher, it must be reported as other support.
All pending support at the time of application submission and prior to award must be reported using “Just-in-Time Procedures” by providing all information indicated above. Applicants are responsible for promptly notifying NIH of any substantive changes to previously submitted JIT information up to the time of award, including “Other Support” changes that must be assessed for budgetary or scientific overlap.
Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR)
All foreign involvement should be disclosed on your other support at the proposal stage and any changes or new involvement should be reported using the updated other support in your progress report (RPPR).
If other support, as described as above, is obtained after the initial NIH award period, from any source either through the institution or directly to senior/key personnel, the details must be disclosed in the annual RPPR.
Include visitors who dedicates at least one month of effort to the project in the budget year, whether or not the effort is compensated, the details must be reported in the annual report (i.e., RPPR) under current NIH policy.
Post-award, 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.”
National Science Foundation (NSF)
NSF Director, Dr. France Córdova, issued a Dear Colleague Letter on Research Protection emphasizing that NSF requires “senior project personnel on proposals to disclose all sources of support, both foreign and domestic.” NSF issued a policy making it clear that NSF personnel and Intergovernmental Personnel Assignments (IPAs) detailed to NSF cannot participate in foreign government talent recruitment programs.
NSF published the 20-1 of NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide which includes clarifications regarding reporting requirements for both current and pending support and professional appointments in NSF biographical sketch(es).
NSF Biographical Sketch(es)
The PAPPG 2020 clarified that, appointments include any titled academic, professional, or institutional position whether or not remuneration is received, and whether full-time, part-time, or voluntary (including adjunct, visiting, or honorary).
NSF Current and Pending Support
Section h. Current and Pending Support of the PAPPG 2020 clarifies requirements regarding submission of current and pending support information including:
- Information must be provided for all current and pending support irrespective of whether such support is provided through the proposing organization or directly to the individual.
- All projects and activities that require a time commitment must be reported (no minimum has been established), even if the support received is only in-kind.
NSF will implement a new electronic format (or formats) SciENcv: Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae as an NSF-approved format for use in preparation of both the Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support sections of an NSF proposal.
Section h. Current and Pending Support of the PAPPG 2020:
Current and pending support information must be separately provided through use of an NSF-approved format, for each individual designated as senior personnel on the proposal. Current and pending support includes all resources made available to an individual in support of and/or related to all of his/her research efforts, regardless of whether or not they have monetary value. Current and pending support also includes in-kind contributions (such as office/laboratory space, equipment, supplies, employees, students26. In-kind contributions not intended for use on the project/proposal being proposed also must be reported27.
Current and pending support information must be provided for this project, for ongoing projects, and for any proposals currently under consideration from whatever source28, irrespective of whether such support is provided through the proposing organization or is provided directly to the individual.
The total award amount for the entire award period covered (including indirect costs) must be provided, as well as the number of person-months (or partial person-months) per year to be devoted to the project by the individual.
Concurrent submission of a proposal to other organizations will not prejudice its review by NSF, if disclosed.29 If the project (or any part of the project) now being submitted has been funded previously by a source other than NSF, information must be provided regarding the last period of funding.
NSF intends to develop a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to accompany the revised PAPPG, when implemented. These FAQs will specifically state that institutional startup packages from the proposing organization are not required to be reported
NSF Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources
In-kind contributions (such as office/laboratory space, equipment, supplies, employees, students) must be reported, as well as in-kind contributions not intended for use on the project/proposal being proposed. If the time commitment or dollar value is not readily ascertainable, reasonable estimates should be provided. The 20-1 PAPPG submitted specify that if the in-kind contributions are intended for use on the project being proposed to NSF, the information must be included as part of the Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources section of the proposal and need not be replicated in the individual’s Current and Pending Support submission.
NSF Applications and Progress Report
The NSF proposal application cover sheet asks if there are any international activities and what country/countries are involved. If yes, any involved countries should be listed here.
Any changes in the status can be addressed in the yearly progress reports that must be submitted via Research.gov
Collaborators and Other Affiliations
The National Science Foundation (NSF) requires that Collaborators and Other Affiliations information must be separately provided for each individual identified as senior project personnel.
Department of Defense (DoD)
DoD issued a memo that all new DoD Notices of Funding Opportunities (NFOs) pertaining to research and research-related educational activities shall require proposers to submit the below information for all key personnel, whether or not the individuals' efforts under the project are to be funded by the DoD:
- A list of current projects the individual is working on, as well as any future support applied for regardless of source
- Titles and objectives of the other projects
- Percentage per year devoted to the other projects
- Total amount of support the individual is receiving or will receive
- Name and address of agencies and/or other parties supporting other projects
- Period of performance for the other projects
In a Letter to Universities, DoD reminds the research community for the need for research personnel to fully disclose conflicts of interest and commitment. “all research and research- related educational activities conducted through DoD research grants, cooperative agreements, Technology Investment Agreements, and other non-procurement transactions require key-personnel to disclose all current and pending projects, time commitments to other projects, and funding sources at the time of application.”
Department of Energy (DOE)
The Department of Energy issued Order 486.1, Department of Energy Foreign Government Talent Recruitment Programs prohibiting DOE federal and contractor employees from participating in certain foreign government talent recruitment programs.
DOE Resources: Order 486.1
Other Notes on Biosketches, Progress Reports, and Significant Financial Interests
- Biosketches should be current and thorough.
- Progress reports for key personnel should indicate any change in support that occurred over the last budget year.
- • Conflict of Interest (COI) disclosures must be submitted to Rice’s COI office (coi.rice.edu) before an application is submitted, annually thereafter, and whenever Significant Financial Interest (SFI) changes.
Related University Policies
We expect further guidance from sponsors. We will continue to communicate additional updates and clarifications from sponsors. Scholars should note Rice University policies and guidance around this topic.
Grant Applications: 301. Policy for the Submission and Administration of Sponsored Projects
Federal sponsors have clarified that all sources of support (both domestic and foreign) must be disclosed including but not limited to: research support, financial interests, collaborations, affiliations, appointments, industry support, support from private, foreign, state, or local governments, and in-kind support dedicated to investigators research including but not limited to, financial support for laboratory personnel, and provision of high-value materials that are not freely available. Disclosure is required for both academic and summer activities regardless of whether the work is supported through a Rice sponsored agreement or not.
As such, consulting salary, gifts, lab support, animal research, and more may fall under the disclosure requirements. This information must be disclosed in grant applications including: biosketches, current and pending support, other support, progress reports, and conflict of interest (COI) disclosures. For NIH, if the performance of any significant scientific element of the project occurs outside the United States, the grant application must be properly identified as involving a Foreign Component.
All exports of materials and data, including research results, must be in compliance with applicable federal laws and regulations (e.g., Export Administration Regulations (EAR), International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), and trade sanction regulations). Exports include actual shipments or transmissions of materials or data outside of the U.S., including to research sponsors.
Scholars must, at a minimum, disclose to the University all Outside Interests and Activities that reasonably appear to be related to their Institutional Responsibilities. If there are any doubts about the relatedness of Outside Interests or Activities to Scholars' Institutional Responsibilities, Scholars should err on the side of disclosure.
Links to Sources
NIH: Other Support
NIH: Biosketch Format, Instructions and Samples
NIH: NOT-OD-18-160 – COI Reminder
PHS: Promoting Objectivity in Research
NSF: Current and Pending Support
NSF: Biographical Sketch(es)
NSF: Collaborations and Other Affiliations
NSF: NSF releases JASON report on research security
Other federal agency sponsors may have different requirements. Please check the specific funding opportunity announcement and relevant agency grant policies for individual applications.