Foreign Activity

The following guidance has been prepared by the Office of Research to ensure that research and educational activities at UC Davis are compliant with federal regulation, state law, university policy, and research sponsor requirements – specifically relating to disclosing foreign relationships and activities. It is intended to supplement guidance from the University of California Office of the President (UCOP).

Another resource is the National Science & Technology Council’s new guidance to help organizations that conduct research protect their enterprise.

Background on Increased Federal Scrutiny

UC Davis remains committed to continuing and building important and successful relationships and collaborations with our foreign colleagues and Institutions. However, recently, the U.S. government has identified threats to our national security in the form of intellectual property diversion by foreign actors.  Specifically, the academic freedom and open exchange of ideas that is essential to the mission of the university also creates a unique set of risks. To that end, it is important that all UC Davis personnel protect the integrity of our resources through consistent disclosure and reporting of international research, scholarly, and outside activities through all appropriate channels.

Commitment to Nondiscrimination

The UC non-discrimination policy states that the university does not discriminate and prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, physical or mental disability, medical condition (cancer-related or genetic characteristics), ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, citizenship, or status as a covered veteran. Further, the UC generally does not accept sponsors’ restrictions of research based on citizenship (with certain narrow exceptions).

Steps You Should Take to Ensure Compliance

  1. Disclose all your outside professional activities, whether paid or unpaid, through the required UC Davis Outside Activities Reporting System (OATS). Note: many of these activities require pre-approval (e.g. company startups, employment or professorships outside of the university, performing research on behalf of or at another organization, etc.).
  2. Ensure that all the Federal and State mandated financial conflict of interest (COI) disclosures required by your sponsor have been met.
  3. Disclose to your sponsor (e.g.  NIH, NSF, DoD…):
    1. if you have or may receive research support from anyone else for any of your other research endeavors/projects, regardless of whether these other projects are related to the research you are conducting for these sponsors.
    2. any research that you or any of your research personnel perform on the project outside of the United States.
    3. any foreign entity support/payment to any foreign scholars and students who are key personnel related to your project.
  4. Know when you should contact the UC Davis Export Control Officer to determine whether your activity is permitted and/or requires a license (e.g. sharing controlled technology with foreign persons overseas or in your lab, international research collaborations, traveling or shipping research materials overseas).

Research Sponsor-Specific Reporting and Disclosure Requirements

Several government agencies have released information and guidance related to disclosure and reporting of international relationships by researchers as part of the contracts and grants submission and renewal process.  For instance, the NIH specifically defines “other support”, “foreign component” and “foreign organization affiliation”, all of which must be disclosed either at the time of proposal or in annual reports. It is vitally important that researchers become familiar with the sponsor requirements for what must be disclosed and when these disclosures must take place.  Please see the relevant section for sponsor-specific policies, definitions and FAQs.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The NIH has recently expressed concerns related to breach of confidentiality in grant review and the diversion of intellectual property in grant applications.  In response, NIH will be working with other government agencies to mitigate these concerns.

National Science Foundation (NSF)

Like NIH, the NSF is currently undertaking a broad effort to ensure that grantees are aware of and understand their responsibility to disclose all foreign and domestic sources of support.  This effort includes clarification of reporting requirements for both current and pending support and professional appointments.

Department of Defense (DoD)

The DoD has stated their intent to work with universities performing defense and engineering research to protect intellectual property, controlled information, key personnel and information about critical technologies and to limit the influence of countries that seek to exploit DoD research.

Department of Energy (DoE)

The DoE has added requirements that prohibit DoE-funded researchers from being involved in foreign talent programs.

Financial Conflicts of Interest in Research (COI)

Depending on the sponsor of the research, the State of California, Federal regulations, or UC Davis policy may require researchers to disclose certain outside financial interests and, if necessary, manage those interests through a COIC-recommended management plan.  It is essential that researchers accurately and fully identify whether any of their outside financial interests meet the thresholds for disclosure prior to undertaking the research (e.g. paid consulting, paid professorships at other institutions, or travel expenses related to your research endeavor paid by an entity other than the University).  Information on the conflict of interest disclosure requirements and filing process at UC Davis can be found here.

Conflict of Commitment (CoC)

Separate and apart from conflict of interest disclosure requirements, all faculty members at UC Davis must also disclose any outside professional activities, as these activities may interfere with their professional obligations to the university. Unlike COI, conflicts of commitment may not necessarily be financial in nature.  Some outside activities require formal approval prior to undertaking the activity. For example:

Export Control Compliance

All activities, both domestic and international, undertaken on behalf of the university, must be compliant with applicable regulations, including U.S. export control laws. These laws and regulations restrict controlled information, goods and technology for national security and trade protection. For example, U.S. export control laws cover physical exports of controlled items, but also “deemed exports” where there is a release or sharing of export-controlled information or technology to a foreign national within the U.S..  Specific information on how export control laws may affect your institutional responsibilities at UC Davis should contact the Research Ethics and Compliance Office.

Other Related Resources