Guidelines for Foreign Entity Relationships – Do’s and Don’ts for Faculty and Staff

Recent communications from federal agencies, such as NIH, have made it clear that there is increased scrutiny from our research sponsors regarding our relationships with foreign entities. A number of investigators, here and at other universities, have asked for guidelines in this area. Below is guidance, and a non-exhaustive set of examples, that we hope will clarify Wake Forest University’s position on various activities relating to foreign entities. Further information may be obtained from the Office of Research & Sponsored Programs.

A. Okay – Relationship with Foreign Entity Okay, but disclosure required*

  1. WFU will receive an award/subaward from a foreign university or company. (Disclosure is made via proposal routing and approval process in Cayuse SP)
  2. A foreign entity (university, government, industry, or foundations) will reimburse investigator travel costs or pay an honorarium to an investigator to participate in a conference or deliver a lecture.
  3. An investigator engages in unpaid research activities with a foreign research laboratory– typically at a university. However, review and approval may be required because of intellectual property considerations, or if an investigator’s affiliation on research products such as proposals and publications will not solely be that of WFU.
  4. An investigator participates in research in a foreign country. This must be disclosed as current or pending support in funding applications. This includes grants, gifts, or any other financial support for research. In addition, if a faculty member is a named investigator at another institution, the project should be disclosed even if compensation is not provided. Any resulting publications or presentations must include the investigator’s affiliation with WFU as a primary affiliation.
  5. A faculty member is engaged in an outside teaching assignment at a school in another country. This would have to be reported, but ONLY if the faculty member also conducts federally-funded research at WFU.  This applies even during semesters off from teaching (e.g., during the summer months).
  6. A faculty member is engaged in consulting with overseas organizations. This would have to be reported, but ONLY if the faculty member also conducts federally-funded research at WFU. This applies even during semesters off from teaching (e.g., during the summer months).

B. May Be Okay – Relationship with Foreign Entity May Be Okay (“gray area”), but disclosure required*

  1. A foreign university will pay an investigator directly to participate on a research project as a consultant (this requires approval from the investigator’s Chair or Program Director).
  2. An academic (non-honorary) title, such as “professor” or “research professor”, is conferred at a foreign institution. This requires the approval of the investigator’s Chair and/or Dean. Approval is required whether or not the investigator is compensated.
  3. Recruitment into a foreign “talents” program (e.g., 1000 Talents Plan). If an investigator is considering or is contacted by such a program, s/he should notify his/her Dean and the Office of the Provost for guidance. Federal legislation has been considered that would prohibit individuals who have participated in such programs from receiving grant funding from the Department of Defense.  There is some concern that this proposed prohibition could be revived or broadened to include other federal granting agencies, such as the DOE.
  4. An investigator takes an extended absence overseas while employed at the university (i.e., not on sabbatical or other leave). This must be approved by the investigator’s Chair and/or Dean in advance, and for a limited period of time. Changes in sponsored effort and payment from sponsored sources for any such time must be carefully monitored and fully disclosed to, and acknowledged/approved by, the funding agency and WFU.
  5. Export of data/materials to a foreign entity. This may be done with an appropriate Material Transfer Agreement or Data Use Agreement/Data Transfer Agreement, subject to the export control rules of EAR (Export Administration Regulations; Bureau of Industry and Security, Dept. of Commerce) and/or ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulation; Department of State). If an investigator takes or sends equipment, hardware, software, or related technical data abroad, or shares it with foreign persons (e.g., students) even if it stays in the US, a federal export license may be required prior to export. A principal investigator on a project that is subject to publication and/or personnel restrictions, or who intends to take or send such items abroad, must consult with the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs[1].
  6. An investigator forgets to disclose a financial interest, but self-discloses the violation. While this is a policy violation, it is preferable that it be discovered via self-disclosure rather than via audit by the university or by a federal agency.  If the non-disclosed interest is a conflict of interest with federally (HHS)-sponsored research, HHS policy (and usually, university policy) requires a retrospective review of the research to check for the introduction of bias.

C. Not Okay – Relationship with Foreign Entity Not Okay

  1. Outside activity for a foreign entity that is beyond that allowed by the consulting policies in the Faculty Handbook. An investigator may devote additional outside effort during periods when s/he is not working full-time at the university, such as during unpaid months in the summer for those on 9-month academic year appointments.
  2. “Double-dipping”; i.e., receiving support for the same project/effort from two different entities (e.g., one foreign and one domestic) Recent Actions: Emory researchers (The Scientist article)
  3. Disclosure of any confidential information (privileged grant application or grant/publication review information, approval status, confidential results, reviewer identity, etc.) to any unapproved entity, foreign or domestic. Recent Actions: MD Anderson Cancer Center researchers (Science article; Houston Chronicle
  4. Serving as an “honorary” author, “honorary” researcher, or “honorary” principal investigator at a foreign institution, where no effort or formal compensation is involved, is not permitted. Any effort, compensation, or authorship credit relating to foreign research must be disclosed, and must be in accord with actual work done/effort expended.
  5. Development of intellectual property without disclosure to Wake Forest Innovations, and/or release of intellectual property for work conceived or done as a Wake Forest University investigator to a foreign entity without appropriate licensing/contract from Wake Forest Innovations.

 *These are examples of activities or sponsorship that must be disclosed to federal, and many non-federal, sponsors in the “Other Support” (sometimes called “Current and Pending”) section of proposals or progress reports.

 Some useful links:

NIH reminder on Other Support and Foreign Components:

https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-19-114.html

NSF “Dear Colleague” letter on Research Protections:

https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2019/nsf19200/research_protection.jsp

[1] Restricted Party Screening (RPS) is recommended prior to any related business interchange or interaction – see link.