Foreign engagement is of fundamental importance to UCLA. Research does not arbitrarily stop at national borders, and affiliations with foreign institutions, collaborative research, and scholarly exchanges are an essential part of the academic community. Furthermore, UCLA is proud to welcome exceptional students, faculty, and researchers from countries around the world. We remain committed to continuing and strengthening these relationships.
At the same time, we must recognize and address the U.S. government’s increased focus on foreign involvement in U.S. university research. Additionally, as articulated by UCLA leadership in a November 7, 2019 message to the campus "we must never resort to suspicion based on a person’s national origin. To do so is nothing short of discrimination, which is antithetical to our values as an institution. Racial profiling, in any context, is corrosive to our community."
The purpose of this website is to provide guidance to the UCLA community, especially faculty who are engaged in international collaborations and scholarly activities. This is a rapidly evolving landscape. We anticipate making regular updates.
Last Updated on August 14, 2023 to add a memo issued by DOD providing guidance on strengthening efforts to counter unwanted foreign influence on DOD-funded research at institutions of high education.
See a complete list of updates.
Since early 2018, various departments of the U.S. government have expressed publicly their belief that foreign entities may be using their financial support and interactions with the U.S. academic community to compromise the United States’ economic competitiveness and national security. To address these concerns, new policies and regulations have been established by federal research sponsors, and those already in existence are being more actively enforced. An area of special focus has been the disclosure of foreign involvement by individual investigators in applications for research support.
Following are some of the recent announcements by federal sponsors concerning foreign involvement at U.S. universities:
- National Institutes of Health:
- On August 20, 2018, the NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins, issued a letter a reminding the research community of the requirement to disclose in funding applications and progress reports "all forms of other support and financial interests, including support coming from foreign governments or other foreign entities."
- NIH issued NIH Notice NOT-OD-19-114 in July 2019 with specific guidance on other support disclosure, and reminded NIH applicants and recipients 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."
- National Science Foundation:
- On July 11, 2019, NSF Director, Dr. France Cordova issued a "Dear Colleagues Letter" commenting on an increase in "the scope and sophistication of the activities threatening our research community" and outlining NSF’s plans to address this situation, including a renewed effort "to ensure that existing requirements to disclose current and pending support information are known, understood, and followed."
- In December 2019, NSF released a report entitled "Fundamental Research Security." Among other findings, this report identified "problems with respect to research transparency, lack of reciprocity in collaborations and consortia, and reporting of commitments and potential conflicts of interest." The report further recommended that failure to report commitments and potential conflicts of interest should have consequences similar to those now in place for cases of research misconduct.
- Department of Defense:
- The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2019 stated that DOD shall "establish an initiative to work with academic institutions...to support protection of intellectual property and controlled information...and to limit undue influence, including through foreign talent programs, by countries to exploit United States technology."
- DOD issued a memo on March 20, 2019 that outlined disclosure requirements for Key Personnel on research and research-related educational activities supported by DOD grants and contracts.
- DOD issued a memo on September 20, 2022 that established the task force on balancing openness and security across the DOD academic research enterprise.
- DOD issued a memo on June 29, 2023 that provides guidance on strengthening efforts to counter unwanted foreign influence on DOD-funded research at institutions of higher education.
- Department of Energy:
- On December 13, 2019, DOE issued DOE Order 142.3A Chg 2 to remove an exemption from prior approval requirements for certain foreign nationals participating in DOE funded fundamental research projects at universities. The full implications of this change are not yet known, and UC Office of the President staff are currently in discussions with DOE officials. In May 2020, UCOP issued guidance to the contracts and grants staff at the UC campuses on awards containing this Order. If any UCLA investigators are recipients of such an award, the cognizant OCGA officer will contact them to determine what actions may be necessary in order to achieve compliance with UC policy concerning nondiscrimination on the basis of citizenship.
- On September 4, 2020, DOE issued DOE Order 486.1A and an FAQ concerning the participation of DOE employees, contractors, and certain subcontractors in foreign government talent programs and other activities in "foreign countries of risk." The list of these countries is subject to change. At present it includes China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran. It is our current understanding that this Order does not apply to DOE financial assistance awards to universities. With regard to DOE laboratory subcontracts to universities, it normally applies only to university staff if they come on to a DOE site to perform R & D work. If you have any questions on this requirement, please contact your cognizant OCGA Officer.
- Department of Education:
- Under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act of 1965, universities are required to report twice each year, by foreign entity, contracts and/or gifts from a foreign source that cumulatively equal or exceed $250,000 in the calendar year. A growing number of universities, including Harvard and Yale are being investigated for failure to provide accurate reports, as described in this Department of Education bulletin and report to the U.S. Senate issued by the Department.
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration:
- Since 2011, NASA has prohibited the use of any its funding to enter into agreements "to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company, at the prime recipient level or at any subrecipient level, whether the bilateral involvement is funded or performed under a no-exchange of funds arrangement." On February 27, 2020 a faculty member at the University of Tennessee Knoxville was arrested for failure to disclose his affiliation with a Chinese university
In compliance with individual sponsor requirements, certain collaborations and/or affiliations with foreign as well as domestic entities or individuals must be disclosed in proposals and reports. Such collaborations may include exchanges of staff, materials, data, funding, or other significant activity which could result in joint authorship.
Failure to fully disclose foreign/domestic collaborations, affiliations, and resources in funding applications and other documents can have serious consequences, and may endanger UCLA’s eligibility for future federal funding.
When a UCLA Principal Investigator signs an EPASS approval and submission summary sheet and a proposal is then submitted to a federal agency, the PI is certifying that all information is complete and accurate to the best of his or her knowledge, and failure to disclose may lead to charges of providing fraudulent information. In some cases, failure to disclose has led to criminal charges against individual researchers. Additional information on recent actions taken by various government agencies against researchers who have not fully disclosed their foreign support and affiliations can be found in this July 7, 2020 article in Nature, this July 15, 2020 article in Chemistry World, and this November 27, 2020 article in Bloomberg Law.
Please contact the appropriate individual at the UCLA Office of Contract and Grant Administration (OCGA) if you have any questions on disclosure requirements. The policies of the various agencies are not consistent and are being continuously modified. The disclosure policies of some key agencies are summarized below:
- National Institutes of Health
- National Science Foundation
- Department of Defense
- Department of Energy
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration
For disclosure policies of other federal research sponsors, please review the program announcements and proposal preparation guides, and contact OCGA with any questions.
This chart summarizes the conflict of interest and conflict of commitment policies under which faculty members and other investigators must disclose certain information to UCLA in order to achieve compliance with federal, state, and university requirements. Additional details and links to policy are provided following the chart.
|Conflict of Interest
|Conflict of Commitment
|Purpose||To protect the integrity and objectivity of research conducted by UCLA investigators, and comply with related policies and regulations||To identify and manage outside professional activities of UCLA faculty to ensure no interference with academic responsibilities|
Principal Investigators and others who share responsibility for the design, conduct or reporting of externally supported research in conjunction with
|Faculty appointed at 50% or more and all Health Science Compensation Plan (HSCP) participants|
|What is filed||
Depends upon source of funding
|Annual reports and prior approval requests for certain activities|
|When is filing required||
Depends upon source of funding
|Filing Required Under Policies Established by||
University of California
|Online Systems||eDGE (PHS only)||UC OATS|
|UCLA Office with Administrative Responsibility||Research Policy and Compliance||Academic Personnel|
Note: All involvement (funded or unfunded) with foreign entities must be disclosed
Conflicts of Interest
- Principal Investigators on sponsored research agreements and others who share responsibility for the design, conduct, or reporting of research supported by the National Science Foundation and all other federal agencies other than PHS (see below), must disclose personal financial interests, both U.S. and foreign, that may reasonably appear to be affected by the work performed under the sponsored project. This includes salary, consulting payments, honoraria, royalty payments, dividends, loans from the entity, equity interests, or intellectual property interests in the form of a patent, patent application, or copyright of software assigned to any entity other than the UC Regents. (See UCLA Procedure 925.3)
- Principal Investigators on sponsored research agreements and others who share responsibility for the design, conduct or reporting of research supported by the Public Health Service (including the National Institutes of Health), must disclose personal financial interests that reasonably appear to be related to their UCLA responsibilities. Financial interests include income, honoraria, royalty payments for use or sale of patented or copyrighted intellectual property owned by an individual or organization other than the UC Regents, equity, and travel reimbursed by or directly purchased for the individual. While there are some exclusions for U.S. government and institutions of higher education, all financial interests in foreign institutions must be disclosed. (See UCLA Policy 926). Reporting to NIH and other PHS agencies is done at UCLA through the electronic Disclosure Gateway (eDGE) system. The training materials and FAQ can be seen at the eDGE website.
- Principal Investigators seeking research support through contracts, grants, gifts and material transfer agreements from non-governmental sources (for-profit and non-profit) and others who share responsibility for the design, conduct or reporting of the research, or who are the recipients of gifts for research, must disclose financial interests in the sponsor under State of California, UC, and UCLA conflict of interest policies and procedures. This includes all foreign sponsors including governmental and non-governmental. (See UCLA Procedures 925.1 and 925.2)
Forms, policies and procedures, and other guidance concerning disclosure of conflict of interest in research can be seen at the UCLA Research Policy and Compliance office website. Two summary guides are available: the Federal Financial Interest Disclosure Requirements Matrix and the State of California Financial Interest Disclosure Requirements Matrix.
Conflicts of Commitment
- UCLA faculty are required to seek prior approval for outside professional activities likely to create conflict of commitment concerns. This includes the conduct of research elsewhere, employment at another institution, and managerial or executive positions outside the University. Faculty are also expected to submit annual reports in which they disclose these kinds of activities, and any outside consulting, Board of Director memberships, industry workshops, and UC-compensated teaching above their regular course loads. (See APM 025 and 671)
- UCLA faculty are required to complete annual reports of outside professional activities, both those likely to create conflict of commitment concerns (listed above), and other activities including additional University-compensated teaching such as UNEX courses and programs, other continuing education programs run by the University, and self-supporting UC degree programs; consulting or testifying as an expert or professional witness; providing outside consulting services or referrals or engaging in professional practice as an individual or through a single-member professional corporation or sole proprietorship; serving on a board of directors outside of the University; providing or presenting a workshop for industry; or providing outside consulting or compensated professional activities performed for entities such as the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. (See APM 025 and 671)
Reports of outside professional activities (whether compensated or uncompensated) must include all foreign and domestic activities. The UC-wide Outside Activity Tracking System (OATS) has been developed to facilitate this reporting, and provide current information on its implementation at UCLA.
For information about participation in Foreign Talent Programs, please see separate section below.
The following Announcements from the UCLA Vice Chancellor for Research and Vice Chancellor for Academic Personnel contain additional information on reporting conflict of commitment and outside activities:
Export controls impact all UCLA research and non-research activities. These U.S. laws and regulations govern the conditions under which certain information, technologies, and commodities can be exported to a foreign person, entity, or country, or to a foreign national within the U.S.; they promote U.S. foreign policy objectives and national security interests. UCLA is committed to complying with all U.S. export control laws. Violations of export control regulations can expose UCLA as well as its faculty, staff, and students, to criminal and civil penalties.
Examples of UCLA activities that may be subject to export controls include, but are not limited to:
- Research collaborations and agreements
- Technology and material transfers
- International travel for conferences, teaching, research, and other UCLA business
- Inviting and hosting visitors
- Financial transactions
The Export Control Team within UCLA Research Policy and Compliance provides licensing determinations and guidance to the campus community. Additional information can be found on the Export Control web page. Please contact email@example.com with any questions.
Contracts and Grants
Proposals for external support for sponsored research and other activities must be submitted to the sponsor through the Office of Contract and Grant Administration (non-profit and government sponsors), the Industry Sponsored Research division of the UCLA Technology Development Group (for-profit sponsors), or the Clinical Trials Contracts & Strategic Relations office (certain industry sponsored clinical trials). Information about foreign activity and potential export control issues should be noted on the EPASS approval and submission summary sheet submitted along with such proposals. The above-named units also handle agreements for sharing of proprietary/confidential information, data use, material transfer, and other agreements with outside parties related to research that do not involve an exchange of funds.
Gift support to UCLA from foreign sources must be disclosed and accepted by the Development Section of the Office of External Affairs or the Office of Corporate, Foundation, and Research Relations.
Entering into other types of agreements with foreign entities also requires review. Please confer with the appropriate campus unit before initiating an agreement so that any potential issues and/or conflicts can be identified and managed.
- Honoraria and other personal service agreements (for non-UCLA individuals): UCLA Corporate Financial Services
- International Academic Agreements and Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs): UCLA Office of International Studies and Global Engagement
- Visiting graduate researcher appointments: UCLA Graduate Division
- Agreements related to the transfer of intellectual property: UCLA Technology Development Group (TDG)
- Outgoing research subcontracts to foreign institutions: OCGA Subaward Team (subawards under grants and cooperative agreements) or UCLA Purchasing (subawards under contracts)
Foreign Talent Program Participation
Foreign Talent Programs typically provide U.S. academics with additional appointments, resources, and responsibilities. If participation in these programs involves establishment of an employee-employer relationship, the conduct of research or teaching, and/or acceptance of salary from another institution, invitations to join these programs must be disclosed to UCLA as part of the prior approval process under Conflict of Commitment Policies (APM 025 and 671). Faculty must report effort committed to a Foreign Talent Program in annual reports required under the same Academic Personnel Policies.
Program participants are usually obligated to disclose intellectual property to the foreign institution with which they are affiliated. In most cases, these obligations conflict with existing obligations to UCLA under the UC Patent Policy. Before agreeing to such requirements, faculty should confer with the UCLA Technology Development Group (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org).
In addition to obtaining prior approval under the Conflict of Commitment Policies referenced above, faculty should also confer with staff of the UCLA Office of Contract and Grant Administration prior to accepting such an appointment to ensure that the terms of participation do not conflict with other research sponsor policies. Additionally, OCGA staff can provide guidance about how appointments and resources provided under a foreign talent program should be disclosed to research sponsors.
For additional information on Foreign Talent Programs, see the discussion starting on page 17 of the presentation entitled "Enhancing the Security and Integrity of America’s Research Enterprise" issued by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on October 15, 2020.
UCLA Insurance & Risk Management’s Travel Insurance website provides instructions on registering international travel, protecting electronic devices, and obtaining assistance while away from UCLA. A video presentation on Traveling Abroad is available on the UCLA Office of Research Policy and Compliance website, and a University of California website, UCGO, contains additional general information and links to resources on traveling and working overseas.
Travel to certain embargoed or sanctioned destinations such as Cuba, Iran, Syria, Sudan, or North Korea requires advance review and in some instances licenses from the U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control. Please contact the staff of the UCLA Export Control Compliance Program at email@example.com if you plan to undertake such travel. For travel to Iran, see this memo from the UCLA Vice Chancellor for Research.
Safeguarding Intellectual Property and Other Resources
The UCLA Technology Development Group (TDG) is responsible for seeking patent and/or copyright protection (as appropriate) and licensing UCLA intellectual property. This is essential in protecting IP against theft or other improper use by international parties.
Under the UC Patent Policy, all UCLA employees, and certain individuals that use UCLA research facilities or receive gift, grant, or contract research funding are required to promptly disclose to TDG all inventions that they conceive and/or reduce to practice during the timeframe in which they are a UCLA employee or use such facilities or funding. For clarity, such disclosure obligation is broad and requires disclosure regardless of where or in what capacity (e.g., includes inventions made during a consultancy) the inventor was working at the time the invention was made. See information on submitting an invention report to TDG.
When visitors are on the UCLA campus, appropriate safeguards must be in place to prevent unauthorized access to unpublished research results, third party proprietary information, laboratory facilities, and IT resources. In most cases, visiting researchers are required to execute a Visiting Scientist Agreement – please contact TDG at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. Certain visa petitions may require the host department at UCLA to submit an Export Control Compliance Attestation form to confirm that the visitor will not be performing research on any technology in violation of the export control regulations, or will otherwise have improper access to controlled equipment, technology, or information.
The UC Office of the President (UCOP) has established a website that provides additional background information, guidance, and recommendations for the UC community on foreign influence. We encourage UCLA faculty, staff, trainees and students to consult this website when contemplating international involvement in research and related activities. This website includes slides from a June 2020 presentation on Foreign Influences on Research Integrity and the Shifting Landscape prepared by UCOP’s Office of Ethics, Compliance, and Audit Services (ECAS).
The following notices have been issued by UCLA and University of California leadership:
- Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Administration Marcia L. Smith, November 28, 2018
- UC President Janet Napolitano, February 7, 2019 and February 13, 2019
- Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott L. Waugh, February 25, 2019
- Chancellor Gene D. Block, November 7, 2019
Another useful resource for information on foreign influence and related security issues is the website on Science and Security that has been established by the Council on Government Relations (COGR).
Please contact UCLA at RPC@research.ucla.edu if you have any other questions. If you are contacted by a government agency or media organization concerning foreign involvement in your research or other activities, please contact RPC immediately and you will be directed to the appropriate UCLA office for assistance.
For questions, contact RPC@research.ucla.edu.