Skip to main content Skip to navigation

2019 Letter: International Activities

Important message regarding international activities

View original memorandum (pdf)

Monday, September 23, 2019

Dear Colleagues:
Over the past eighteen months, national security agencies, federal
granting agencies, the White House, and members of Congress have
raised serious concerns about systematic programs of foreign
interference and attempts to exploit the U.S. research enterprise.
These concerns include alleged academic espionage, theft of
intellectual property, and threats to academic integrity. In light of these
concerns, we are writing to ensure you are aware of all the
requirements and regulations applicable to international activities and,
equally, to affirm our support for our international community at
Washington State University.

Unfortunately, recent events have also added to a sense of unease
among many international students and scholars at universities across
the country. This development is deeply concerning. Washington State
University is privileged to welcome faculty, students, staff, and visiting
scholars from all parts of the globe. This diversity of experiences,
backgrounds, and perspectives immeasurably enriches our research
and educational programs and our community. Washington State
University remains unequivocally committed to maintaining an open
academic research environment where all members of our community
feel welcome and respected.

This commitment does not detract from our responsibility to comply
with all of the legal and regulatory requirements that safeguard our
research enterprise. Please note that not all obligations are related to
federal grants. U.S. export control laws and regulations, WSU policies
and procedures, and travel and data security best practices apply
regardless of sponsor. We would like to remind all WSU researchers
to fully disclose external financial interests, affiliations, and activities;
follow export regulations; and safeguard WSU resources and
intellectual property.

At this time, there are no new statutory or regulatory requirements.
However, federal agencies that support research are reviewing their
policies and strengthening their attention to disclosure of other support
and affiliations. We are seeing an increase in compliance actions
related to existing requirements and expect close monitoring of
disclosures to continue. In extreme cases, failure to disclose all
relationships could result in the termination of funding for a project or
ineligibility for future funding. Noncompliance can threaten not only the
funding for individual projects or investigators, but the University
overall.

For example, since August 2018, the National Institutes of Health
(NIH) has sent roughly 180 letters to more than 60 U.S. institutions
about individual scientists it believes have broken NIH rules requiring
full disclosure of all sources of research funding, resulting in
investigations at 55 institutions and the well-publicized dismissals of
five researchers from the MD Anderson Cancer Center and Emory
University.

Recognizing that these requirements are complex, we have compiled
a “Working with Foreign Entities” webpage with policies,
regulations, sponsor guidance, and best practices for international
travel and collaboration. The Office of Research will post federal
agency guidance and clarifications to this webpage as it is released
and be in communication with all research administrators.

The following are a list of key disclosure requirements, WSU policies,
and travel recommendations related to international collaboration:

Travel and data security

  • Please be aware that in certain countries, there are differing norms
    concerning internet privacy. This may result in electronic devices,
    such as laptops holding proprietary information, being accessed
    without your knowledge.
  • Know your destination’s information techology security laws and
    practices. In most countries, you have no expectation of privacy in
    internet cafes, hotels, airplanes, offices, or public spaces. In some
    destinations, you may wish to employ additional precautions to
    protect your information.
  • When traveling internationally:
    • Consider the use of “loaner” laptops.
    • Bring only the data and devices needed for the trip.
    • Do not leave devices unattended or physically unsecured.
    • Only connect to known and trusted networks.
    • Exercise caution when connecting other portable media to your
      device (e.g. USB drives).
    • It is strongly recommended to register international travel to high-risk areas (see Department of State Travel Advisories).

Export control

  • U.S. export control laws and regulations restrict or require licensing
    for the export, even temporarily, of many items and technology to
    countries around the world. An export includes items or technology
    brought with you while traveling.
  • WSU personnel must comply with U.S. export control regulations
    when traveling internationally and attending conferences,
    participating in international collaborations formally or informally,
    using proprietary information, working with international staff and
    students, hosting international visitors, shipping materials
    internationally, transferring technology, or engaging in any
    international transactions.
  • Informal or unofficial agreements to restrict publication or sharing of
    research results are not permitted. WSU policy prohibits
    acceptance of publication restrictions in research, except in the
    case of unusual exceptions which can only be negotiated by WSU
    officials who have delegated authority to accept contracts and
    grants.

Federal funding agency obligations

Investigators whose research is supported with federal funding should
review and update their relevant documents and disclosures as
needed:

  • Documents such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “Other
    Support”, National Science Foundation (NSF) “Current and Pending
    Support”, NSF “Collaborators and Other Affiliations,” and
    biosketches should be current and thorough.

    • Other/Current and Pending Support must include any direct
      research support provided to senior/key personnel, even if it is
      not administered by WSU.
    • For NSF, Current and Pending Support includes all sources of
      support and commitments of time, even if not receiving salary
      support. Please see the Statement on NSF’s commitment to
      secure, open international research collaboration (July 11,
      2019) and Dear Colleague Letter on Research Protection
      (July 11, 2019).
    • The NIH issued Reminders of NIH Policies on Other Support
      and on Policies Related to Financial Conflicts of Interest
      and Foreign Components (July 10, 2019) and an associated
      Frequently Asked Questions on Other Support and Foreign
      Components (rev. August 6, 2019) stating 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.”
  • Progress reports must include any inventions and must indicate any
    change in support to senior/key personnel that occurred over the
    last budget year.
  • Some programs are requesting additional information on
    international affiliations and support in individual funding
    opportunity announcements rather than issuing general guidance.
    We recommend carefully reviewing individual announcements, as
    requirements may have changed.
  • Effective June 7, 2019, U.S. Department of Energy does not allow
    its employees or contractor personnel to participate in foreign talent
    programs. At this time, the policy does not apply to grant-funded
    individuals, but further policy development is expected this year.
  • Federal agency scientific peer review panels should note and
    comply with all requirements to maintain the confidentiality of the
    information in research grant applications.

WSU policies and procedures

  • All proposals for extramural support must be submitted through the
    Office of Research Support & Operations. Awards must be made to
    “Washington State University” and must be signed by our
    authorized institutional official. See ORSO Guideline 1: Proposal
    Review, Processing, and Submission.
  • Only designated personnel are authorized to accept gifts on behalf
    of WSU from any source. All gifts solicited from any domestic or
    international individual or organization should be disclosed to the
    WSU Foundation.
  • All employees are expected to promptly disclose all intellectual
    property and any improvements to existing intellectual property to
    the WSU Office of Commercialization through the Inventor Portal.
    Faculty should remind members of their group to do the same.
  • All faculty must disclose their consulting and extended professional
    activities as required by the Faculty Manual.

In collaboration with national organizations and our fellow academic
institutions, we are examining how our current processes and controls
can be adapted to the changing environment. Additional guidance and
resources will be provided via the “Working with Foreign Entities”
webpage. If you have any questions about these requirements please
contact Jessica Smith-Kaprosy in the Office of Research Support &
Operations at j.smith-kaprosy@wsu.edu or Erin-Kae Rice in the
Office of International Programs at erin.rice@wsu.edu.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and for your ongoing
support of our international students, employees, and visitors.

Sincerely,

Dr. Asif Chaudhry
Vice President for International Programs

Dr. Christopher J. Keane
Vice President for Research