Foreign Influence

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What is Inappropriate Foreign Influence?

The term “foreign influence” has been coined by various federal agencies, but there is no consistent definition. Generally, the term refers to a set of actions carried out by a foreign entity against a U.S. party/parties, by which the foreign party positions itself to obtain a benefit not intended for it (potentially by illegal means). “Foreign influence” is often used to illegally obtain U.S. intellectual property and technology, compromise U.S. computer systems, and/or affect the course of U.S. research to benefit the foreign instigator(s).

Since 2018, Federal agencies have significantly increased their investigative focus on U.S. universities in response to Congressional concerns that misappropriation of sensitive IP and acquisition of certain emerging technologies potentially compromises national security.

Federal concerns fall into four main areas, which affect primary institutional functions:

 

 

In response to bipartisan, growing federal concern, many agencies have issued guidance documents and/or new requirements relating to identifying inappropriate foreign influence. Please see ORED’s “Guidance Regarding Foreign Influence and Research” for more information on Sponsor notifications and reporting requirements.

Helpful Foreign Influence Terms & Definitions

Foreign Influence

The term “foreign influence” has been coined by various federal agencies, but there is no consistent definition.  Generally, the term refers to a set of actions carried out by a foreign entity against a U.S. party/parties, by which the foreign party positions itself to obtain a benefit not intended for it (potentially by illegal means).  “Foreign influence” is often used to illegally obtain U.S. intellectual property and technology, compromise U.S. computer systems, and/or affect the course of U.S. research to benefit the foreign instigator(s).

Financial Conflict of Interest

A situation in which an investigator’s significant financial interest could directly and significantly affect the design, conduct, or reporting of research.

Conflict of Commitment

A situation in which a personnel member dedicates time to personal activities in excess of the time permitted by institutional policy, or to other activities that may detract from his or her primary responsibility to the institution.

Visiting Scholar

Any individual who is currently a faculty member, post-doctoral, doctoral, or graduate-level student at a non-U.S. institution (regardless of citizenship), and who wishes to engage with the U.S. institution for the purposes of teaching, lecturing, performing research, and/or similar professional activities. This includes both compensated and non-compensated positions and/or visits under a J-1, B-2, or other Visa programs.

International collaboration

Occurs between the institution and an international institution for the purposes of joint development, education, research, or other professional activities. Examples include development of a joint degree program, development of a jointly owned foreign institution, etc.

International collaborator

Any individual who works for or on behalf of a non-U.S. entity and engages with one or more institutional personnel for the purposes of teaching, lecturing, performing research, or engaging in other professional activities, and where such engagement occurs outside of the United States.

Senior/Key Personnel

Refers to individuals who are specifically and uniquely important to the study. Key Personnel typically includes the principal investigators and co-investigators but is dependent upon the individual award.

Investigator

Any person who is responsible for the design, conduct, or reporting of research funded by PHS, or proposed for such funding (including collaborators or consultants.

Other Support

In general – any monetary and/or in-kind input by a foreign entity into institutional intellectual property (“IP”), equipment, facilities, and/or programs.

For NIH and NSF awards – 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.

In-kind Support

Non-cash resources provided to a researcher, including items, supplies, equipment, services, labor, etc.

Foreign Component

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.

International activity

Research, training, and/or education carried out in cooperation with international counterparts either overseas or in the U.S. using virtual technologies.

Foreign Talent Program

A program administered by a foreign government and/or entity that solicits U.S. scholars for teaching, research, and service on behalf of that entity, while the individual is employed by a U.S. institution. Recipients of foreign talent awards often receive financial support and in-kind services in exchange for performing activities that may result in the transfer of cutting-edge technology and intellectual property to the foreign country. This type of program may also be positioned as an award or prize to support a foreign national’s study, research, employment, and/or visa application in the United States.

Remuneration

Includes salary and any payment for services not otherwise identified as salary (e.g., consulting fees, honoraria, paid authorship).

Equity Interest

An individual’s interest in a business enterprise including stock ownership, stock option(s), and/or other ownership interest.

Spouse or child financial interest

Significant Financial Interest of a spouse or dependent children must be disclosed in accordance with the rules for reporting a Significant Financial Interest.

Gift

Something of value that is given to the institution by a donor who expects nothing of significant value in return, other than recognition of the gift and its disposition in accordance with the donor’s wishes. A gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, forbearance, or other item having monetary value. It includes services as well as gifts of training, transportation, local travel, lodgings, and meals.

Export

  1. An actual shipment or transmission out of the United States, including the sending or taking of an item out of the United States, in any manner.
  2. Releasing or otherwise transferring controlled “technology” or source code (but not object code) to a foreign person in the United States (a “deemed export”). Any release in the United States of “technology” or source code to a foreign person is a deemed export to the foreign person’s most recent country of citizenship or permanent residency.
  3. A domestic transfer of controlled items or technology with the knowledge that such will be transferred internationally.

Foreign person/entity

Any natural person who is not a lawful permanent resident or who is not a protected individual [with refugee or asylee status].  The terms also incorporates any foreign corporation, business association, partnership, trust, society or any other entity or group that is not incorporated or organized to do business in the United States, as well as international organizations, foreign governments and any agency or subdivision of foreign governments (e.g. diplomatic missions).

Military end user (MER)

Any person or entity whose actions or functions are intended to support ‘military end uses’ (as defined above), including the national armed services (army, navy, marine, air force, or coast guard), as well as the national guard and national police, government intelligence or reconnaissance organizations. (15 CFR 744.21(g)).