Sponsored Programs & Research Compliance

Photo of flag pole in sunset sky

Foreign Influence in Research

The reduction of undue influence and bias in research is a critical aspect of research integrity.  There are numerous ways that a researcher's objectivity can become compromised, and in recent years, the U.S. government has raised concerns about an increase in foreign interference in research at national academic and research institutions. The concerns revolve around three main areas:

  • Diversion of intellectual property to foreign entities
  • Disclosing confidential grant application information by peer reviewers to third parties
  • Failure of researchers to disclose research resources and support provided by other organizations, including foreign entities

UNCW values and encourages collaborations of all kinds, including with non-US colleagues, and recognizes how these experiences enrich research and teaching activities.  UNCW researchers should remain vigilant in reporting relationships and activities that have the potential to impact their ability to conduct research in a manner consistent with UNCW values of ethics and integrity.  Several federal agencies have indicated that failure to disclose foreign relationships and activities may jeopardize eligibility for future funding.

What can you do to help prevent undue foreign influence in research?

  • Be fully transparent when disclosing activities on annual conflict of interest forms or requests for approval to engage in an external professional activity for pay, particularly when the activity or relationship concerned involves a foreign or foreign-based entity.  UNCW's Conflict of Interest and Commitment policy requires the disclosure of activities that may create a financial conflict of interest or a conflict of commitment, whether compensated or not.  Please review the UNCW Conflict of Interest webpage for more information about reporting requirements.
  • Before forming a collaboration with a non-US researcher or entity, contact the UNCW Research Integrity Office's export control unit at exportcontrols@uncw.edu and ask them to conduct a restricted party screening to ensure there are no concerns with paying or sharing research findings with the organization or individual.
  • Before sharing materials or data with non-UNCW colleagues, particularly those outside the U.S., consider if it is appropriate to first enter into a formal agreement such as a material transfer agreement (MTA), data use agreement (DUA), or nondisclosure agreement (NDA).  If so, the Office of Innovation and Commercialization (OIC) can assist with MTAs, and either OIC or the Research Integrity Office (RIO) can assist with DUAs or NDAs.
  • Always maintain confidentiality when serving on peer review panels.
  • Coordinate with the University Advancement office prior to accepting gifts or donations.
  • Obtain guidance from your department chair, dean or the Research Integrity Office if you believe a foreign government might be attempting to recruit you for a foreign government "talent recruiting program."  If a foreign entity offers you cash, research funding, honorific titles, career advancement opportunities, promised future compensation, or other forms of remuneration in exchange for conducting conference presentations or lectures, or establishing a lab outside the U.S., you should seek guidance on whether to establish a relationship with the entity, as the intent of some of these programs is to surreptitiously obtain U.S. intellectual property.
  • If you are funded by NIH, NSF, or DOE you should review agency-specific statements and requirements regarding disclosures of conflicts of interest, specifically those involving foreign influence in research.
  • You can read more information about these concerns in a Letter to the United States Research Community from the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

UNCW Foreign Influence Contacts

Please be aware that the Office of Internal Audit at UNCW maintains an anonymous reporting tool to facilitate reporting of allegations of fraud, waste, abuse, or mismanagement of funds. Concerns about ethical practices may also be reported anonymously to the State Auditor’s Fraud and Abuse Hotline by calling 1-800-730-8477 or filing a complaint online at http://www.ncauditor.net/HotTips/.