Disclosing International Relationships and Activities to UF and Federal Agencies

The University of Florida values and encourages international research, collaboration, and scholarship. It is through our scholarly relationships—both domestic and international—that our faculty, staff, and students continue to generate innovations and discoveries that leave lasting impacts across the globe. The University is equally committed to adhering to regulatory requirements and being a good steward of state and federal agencies’ resources in executing UF’s mission.

Within U.S. federal agencies and university communities, there is growing concern regarding certain agreements and activities between university faculty members and various foreign universities and institutions, the existence of which may have a negative impact on federal agencies’ funding decisions for individual researchers. Of particular concern are the cases where researchers are not disclosing these relationships and activities to their university or to U.S. federal agencies that support their work.

The recent message from the funding agencies is clear: investigators and their universities must completely disclose all foreign activities to their federal funding sponsors.

In an effort to support UF researchers and enable them to successfully navigate international relationships and activities, we are sharing guidance on University and federal agency requirements regarding foreign engagements by university faculty.

What are Federal Agencies Saying?

In 2018, the federal funding agencies began expressing serious concerns that foreign entities were exerting inappropriate influence on U.S. research. The bulk of the concern centers around a lack of disclosure by faculty regarding foreign activities and interests. The funding agencies are adamant that investigators and their universities must completely disclose all foreign activities. The most recent guidance from various federal agencies is below.

NIH Communications

NSF Communications

DOE Communications

DOD Communications

OSTP Communications

While federal agencies are continuing to update their guidance on this topic, it is clear that rules require complete disclosure of research activities that involve a foreign entity. Failure to disclose will create significant issues for the investigator and UF. The University will continue to post updates and clarifications as we receive them from our sponsors. We encourage UF researchers to review federal, sponsor and UF policies and procedures, and to thoroughly disclose all domestic and international research-related relationships and activities to federal sponsors in proposals and progress reports, as well as to UF as an outside activity. 

What International Relationships and Activities Must be Disclosed?

Outside activities must be reported to UF. It is a UF requirement for all UF employees that any outside activity related to their University expertise, whether domestic or foreign, be disclosed and approved via the UF outside activity disclosure process for any activity coinciding with the term of their UF appointment.

Please note, however, that federal sponsors require broader disclosure. Outside and inside activities must be reported to federal sponsors. All federally sponsored investigators and key personnel must report any activity that supports their research endeavors, regardless of: (1) whether it is an activity conducted within the scope of their UF job (i.e., an “inside activity”) or conducted in their private capacity (i.e., an “outside activity”); and (2) whether it takes place within or outside the term of their UF appointment.

Foreign Talent Recruitment Programs

As part of the national discussion of inappropriate foreign influence on U.S. research, many federal agencies, including NIH and NSF, have cited foreign talent recruitment programs as posing a particular threat to the U.S. research community. Participation in foreign talent recruitment programs often involves academic or research affiliations with foreign institutions, financial or other in-kind support for a U.S. researcher’s program, and commitments of time and resources from the U.S. researcher.

As such, both UF and federal sponsors require disclosure of participation in foreign talent recruitment programs. Additionally, activities similar to those described above but not labeled as a foreign talent recruitment program must be disclosed (e.g., affiliations or appointments at another institution, whether or not remuneration is received, and whether full-time, part-time, or voluntary—including adjunct, visiting, or honorary).

Within the context of foreign engagements, the examples below illustrate activities one would disclose to UF and federal sponsors if performed in a private capacity. If performed within the scope of one’s UF job, these activities would need to be reported to federal sponsors only. 

Example Activities

  • Academic, research, or administrative appointments at a foreign institution, even if the appointment is uncompensated. This includes appointments that are full-time, part-time, honorary, adjunct, or voluntary.
  • Any agreement with a foreign university for which the UF faculty member directs non-UF students, postdocs, or other personnel affiliated with that university.
  • Any foreign affiliation that is included in any publication by the UF faculty member.
  • Any contractual agreement with a foreign institution, company, or government agency.
  • Any non-UF agreement in which foreign funds or other resources are provided to the faculty for activities either at UF or at a foreign institution.
  • Any agreement or relationship that assigns intellectual property (IP) rights to the foreign institution.
  • Any agreement or relationship with a foreign entity in which the UF faculty member receives payments for salary, stipends, or living expenses.
  • Any consulting agreements with a foreign entity.
  • Holding a position such as founder, partner, employee, or board member at a company, non-profit, governmental agency, or other foreign entity.
  • Receiving living/lodging funds or reimbursements.
  • Having significant ownership interest in a foreign company related to your UF role/responsibility.
  • Financial interests in a foreign entity that does business with or competes with UF.
  • Receiving travel funds or reimbursements from a foreign entity.
  • Receiving an honorarium from a foreign entity.

The above list provides guidance about foreign relationships and activities that must be disclosed. For a complete list of all relationships and activities, foreign or domestic, that need to be disclosed to UF, please see UF Regulation 1.011 – Disclosure and Regulation of Outside Activities and Financial Interests.

How to Disclose Foreign Activities to UF

UF faculty must complete the “Disclosure of Outside Activities and Financial Interests” form and submit it to their Chair or Supervisor. Additional information on UF’s disclosure of outside activities process is within UF’s “Guidelines, Policies, and Procedures on Conflict of Interest and Outside Activities, Including Financial Interests.”

In the fall of 2019, the University began a staged roll-out of the UF Online Interest Organizer (UFOLIO), a web-based disclosure platform that will streamline, modernize and standardize the way faculty and staff report their activities and financial interests. UFOLIO will replace the existing paper forms, saving faculty and staff time by providing a simpler and more intuitive format for reporting and review.

Disclosing Foreign Activities to NIH

For NIH, the disclosure of foreign activities should be made as Other Support, Foreign Component, and/or within the Biosketch.

Disclosing Foreign Activities to NIH as Other Support

Definition of Other Support – NIH requires senior/key personnel to disclose all resources made available to them in support of or related to all of their research endeavors, regardless of whether or not they have monetary value and regardless of the performance site of the research. Even if the researcher performs the activity outside of the researcher’s UF appointment period (e.g., a nine-month faculty member conducts the activity during the summer months) or at a location other than UF, the researcher must disclose the activity to federal sponsors if it supports or relates to his/her research endeavors.

Examples of other support include, but are not limited to, the following when they are in support of an investigator’s research endeavors:

  • Domestic and foreign grants and contracts, whether provided through UF, 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 UF and who are supported by a foreign entity either through salary, stipend, or receipt of living or travel expenses);
  • Provision of lab space at another institution, foreign or domestic;
  • Provision of scientific materials that are not freely available for use at UF or another institution where the faculty is working (e.g., biologics, chemical, model systems, technology, equipment, etc.);
  • Travel expenses directly paid or reimbursed by a an outside entity;
  • Living expenses directly paid or reimbursed by an outside entity; and
  • Other funding (e.g., salary, stipend, honoraria, etc.) paid to a UF researcher by an outside entity.

NIH requires Other Support to be submitted as part of the Just-in-Time procedures. All other support indicated above must be included in that process. Researchers are responsible for promptly notifying NIH of any substantive changes to previously submitted Just-in-Time information up to the time of award.

After the initial NIH award, researchers must disclose other support in the annual research performance progress report (RPPR). Additionally, for post-award disclosures of other support, 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.”

Disclosing Foreign Activities to NIH as Foreign Component

NIH defines “foreign component” as the performance of any significant scientific element or segment of a project outside of the U.S., either by the recipient or by a researcher employed by a foreign entity, whether or not grant funds are expended. There is a 2-part test for determining whether an activity meets the definition of foreign component: (1) whether a portion of the project will be conducted outside of the U.S. and (2) whether that portion of the project is significant. Some examples of activities that may be considered a significant element of the project include, but are not limited to:

  • 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.

In some cases, it may be difficult to tell whether a certain activity is a foreign component, other support, or neither. In general, if an activity does not meet the definition of foreign component because all research is being conducted within the U.S., but there is a non-U.S. resource that supports the researcher or his/her research endeavors, it must be disclosed as other support. NIH has provided some examples within its FAQs document. Additionally, the UF Division of Sponsored Programs (DSP) contact identified below can assist in the proper classification of foreign components and other support.

At the time of application submission, if there is an anticipated foreign component, researchers must check yes to question 6 on the “R&R Other Project Information” form “Does this project involve activities outside of the United States or partnerships with international collaborators?” and include a “Foreign Justification” attachment in Field 12 “Other Attachments.”. The Foreign Justification should describe the special resources or characteristics of the research project (e.g., human subjects, animals, disease, equipment, and techniques), including the reasons why the facilities or other aspects of the proposed project are more appropriate than a domestic setting.

If researchers want to add a foreign component to an ongoing NIH award, UF must receive prior approval before adding the foreign component. To seek prior approval, researchers must follow the process identified in NIHGPS Section 8.1.2.  An Award Modification should be initiated in UFIRST to submit the request to DSP for review prior to submission to the NIH.

Disclosing Foreign Activities to NSF, DOE, DOD, and Most Other Federal Agencies

For NSF, DOE, DOD, and other non-NIH agencies, the disclosure of foreign activities should be done within Current and Pending and/or the Biosketch.

Disclosing Foreign Activities as Current and Pending Support

For many agencies, the term “current and pending support” refers to the types of “other support” described above for NIH. NSF has developed an electronic format for disclosure of current and pending support information effective June 1, 2020. The NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) clarifies the reporting requirements for current and pending support. 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, students. See also the NSF FAQs related to reporting Current and Pending support. For other agencies, including DOE and DOD, investigators should list that foreign activity with the “current and pending support” construct.

Disclosing Foreign Affiliations in Biosketch

Researchers should include all affiliations—foreign and domestic— whether or not remuneration is received; whether full-time, part-time, or voluntary—including adjunct, visiting, or honorary – on their Biosketch. This includes any titled academic, professional, or institutional position. For NSF, these affiliations must be listed under the Appointments section. Additionally, some affiliations or participation in foreign talent recruitment programs may also meet the definition of other support. If so, researchers should disclose the activity as described in the “current and pending” section above as well.

Prior to accepting any affiliation with another institution that requires a commitment of time or resources, and irrespective of whether the affiliation is compensated or not, UF faculty need to disclose the activity to their department leadership and receive approval. This includes participation in foreign talent recruitment programs or other affiliations/appointments at another institution. Disclosure to UF requires that UF faculty complete the “Disclosure of Outside Activities and Financial Interests” form and submit it to their Chair or Supervisor. Additional information on UF’s disclosure of outside activities process is within UF’s “Guidelines, Policies, and Procedures on Conflict of Interest and Outside Activities, Including Financial Interests.”

Frequently Asked Questions

In light of these issues, should UF researchers decrease the amount of international collaboration that they pursue?

No. International collaboration is a cornerstone of academia and is a critically important aspect of faculty and student life at UF. There are many options to pursue international collaborations at UF via university-to-university agreements, research sponsorship agreements, visitor and student exchange, etc. There is a significant difference, however, between academic collaborations among researchers at different institutions and entering into personal contracts and agreements with institutions other than your home university. It is the latter type of arrangement that must be disclosed and approved prior to beginning the activity.

Should UF faculty reduce the amount of international travel on UF business for themselves and their students?

No. For many years, the University—through the UF International Center and UF Research—has provided country-specific guidance for UF persons traveling abroad, focused on concerns regarding safety, security, and compliance obligations. The guidance has changed little with the recent concerns discussed above.

How is UF keeping track of this issue?

UF’s Office of the Provost, UF Research, and Research Integrity have compiled working groups to review UF’s current policies and procedures, implement process improvements (e.g., the upcoming electronic outside activities disclosure system), and provide guidance to the UF community on this rapidly evolving topic. As rules change at the federal level and new policies or processes are proposed at UF, those updates will be posted on this site and shared broadly across campus.

What do I do if I now see something I need to disclose to UF or a sponsor that I have never previously reported?

Whether you need to correct an omission or error in a previously submitted proposal or progress report, or you have a new activity to report, please contact the Division of Sponsored Programs at ufproposals@ufl.edu.

I have an unpaid researcher or student working in my lab. How should I disclose this?

Scholars, researchers and students working in your lab with direct support from any organization other than UF (including those who identify as “self-funded”) must be listed on your Other Support or Current & Pending Support Documents (the label differs between sponsors).  While the format or template of each of these documents e may differ, they generally require the following information.  Guidance for each field is below:

  1. Project Number: If applicable, include a code or identifier for the work.
  2. Source: Identify the entity that is providing the support for the researcher to be at the University of Florida. This may be their home institution, their home government, a non-profit foundation, or self-funded.
  3. Major Goals: Provide a brief statement of the program or projects on which they are working.
  4. Dates of Approved/Proposed Project: Indicate the inclusive dates of the timeframe in which they will be working in your lab.
  5. Annual Direct Costs: Estimate an annual value of the time to your lab. For example, a student supported by their home country would be valued at the same rate as a University supported GA salary + fringe + tuition.
  6. Percent Effort/Person Months: As you are not required to provide any additional effort for oversight as allowable under presidential memorandum M-01-06, you may report 0 effort months.

I have been given other resources, such as cash gifts, material, reagents, direct-paid travel, or other items of value. How should I disclose these?

Any other resources (including cash gifts, materials, reagents, equipment, direct paid travel, or items of value such as free sequencing, data access, tissues, etc.) that support your research program should be listed as Other Support.  Guidance for each field is below:

  1. Project Number: If applicable, include a code or identifier for the funds.
  2. Source: For domestic gifts, you may simply lump them into one “domestic gifts” aggregate reported resource.  All resources from any organization headquartered outside the US should reported individually.
  3. Major Goals: Provide a brief statement of the overall objectives of the project, subproject, or consortium/contractual arrangement.
  4. Dates of Approved/Proposed Project: Indicate the estimated length of time that the resources will last/be utilized in your program.
  5. Annual Direct Costs: List the annual anticipated value of those resources.
  6. Percent Effort/Person Months: List 0 effort months.

I have an affiliation (paid or unpaid) at another institution. How should I disclose it?

Any affiliations or appointments (foreign or domestic) you have require prior approval through the University’s Outside Activities reporting process.  Further, for the purposes of completing sponsored program applications, such affiliations should be reported in the positions and honors section of your NIH biosketch or appointments section of your NSF biosketch.

I have work that is funded through another institution. How do I disclose it?

If you receive funding for performance of work at another institution, that work is considered an outside activity that should be disclosed to UF in accordance with the UF outside activity policy. Additionally, the research funding must also be disclosed in the Other Support or Current and Pending section of proposals and annual reports.

I have received startup funds from the University of Florida in support of my research program. Do I need to disclose that resource to federal sponsors?

No. Internal UF startup funds do not need to be disclosed as other support or current and pending support. However, startup funds or other funds received from entities outside of UF must be disclosed as described on this website.

Need Help?

For assistance with reporting international relationships to sponsors during the proposal stage, including the Just-in-Time, in the biosketch, or within the other support document, contact the Division of Sponsored Programs (DSP) Unit team at ufproposals@ufl.edu.

For assistance with reporting international relationships or activities after a project is funded, including within the RPPR, or progress report, or by way of a prior approval request, contact the DSP Award team ufawards@ufl.edu.

For assistance with the issue of foreign influence in general or to discuss any specific foreign affiliations or activities, contact Cassandra Farley, Associate Director of Research Integrity at 352-392-9174.

For assistance with UF’s outside activities disclosure requirements, contact Gary Wimsett, Jr., Assistant Vice President for Conflicts of Interest, at 352-273-9272 or gwimsett@ufl.edu.