As a leading research university, Ohio State is committed to promoting the highest standards of ethical research and scholarly pursuit by modeling exemplary standards of research integrity. Ohio State encourages researchers to engage in international collaborations. However, all engagements with foreign entities should be reciprocal, transparent and aligned with research terms and conditions, which promote broad dissemination of information.
Federal Concerns Regarding International Activities
Since 2018, federal agencies have communicated concerns related to foreign entities using their financial support and interactions with the U.S. academic community to compromise the United States’ economic competitiveness and national security. Specifically, federal agencies are focused on: loss of U.S.-funded intellectual property; failure to disclose foreign inputs or activities; failure to disclose foreign conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment; and export control violations.
Review recent announcements by federal sponsors regarding undue foreign influence at U.S. institutions:
Assessing International Collaborations
In light of U.S. government concerns regarding potential undue foreign influence in research, the Office of Secure Research recommends that researchers should assess the benefits and consider potential risks of an international collaboration. These questions are a starting point to help researchers mitigate concerns and identify productive international collaboration opportunities.
- What are the expected benefits of the collaboration to Ohio State, your professional progress, the research community and the country?
- Is it a true collaboration - will both sides contribute meaningfully and benefit intellectually?
- Is the engagement fundamental research? Is the research basic and applied where the results are ordinarily published and shared broadly? If not, what are the collaborating institution’s policies around creating the engagement? Do the policies include attempts to restrict open publication of results?
- Are the terms of the engagement clear and in writing? Does any aspect of the engagement seem unusual, unnecessary, or poorly specified? Have all senior participants and their affiliations been identified?
- Where do funding and resources come from? Is it clear what each party is providing?
- Are all participants’ conflicts of interest and commitment documented? Are there any aspects of the engagement that are not to be disclosed to any participants? If so, why?
- Are all tangible existing or to-be-generated assets of the engagement known, such as data, metadata, and profits? How will assets be shared? Who decides how they are allocated?
- Are visits in each direction part of the engagement? Are scholars expected to reside away from their home institutions? If so, how are they chosen for participation in the engagement?
- What are the reporting requirements to home institutions or organizations?
- Who will control the dissemination of resulting fundamental research?
- How would you, as a participant, end the engagement?
Export Control Regulations
Faculty and staff who engage in the following activities should be aware of export controls and how they apply in each case:
- shipments to foreign locations
- procurement of goods or services from foreign vendors
- payments to foreign nationals and companies
- faculty and staff travel to foreign countries
- contracting with a foreign source
- hosting foreign visitors and delegations
- foreign national access to controlled chemicals, microorganisms and toxins
- research involving specific military applications
- research collaboration with a third party appearing on a U.S. restricted party list
Safeguarding Intellectual Property
Intellectual property (IP) refers to inventions and copyrighted material that are legally protected from unauthorized use through patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets. In an international research setting, IP could include drugs, devices, software codes, curriculum, reagents and data. According to the university’s Intellectual Property Policy, employees must:
- disclose inventions that may need to be protected through Ohio State’s invention disclosure portal; and
- inform the technology commercialization team if named as an inventor on a patent in a foreign country or named as creator/author of software or other materials.
Acknowledging Support in Research Products
Acknowledgement of funding support is typically a term or condition of a federal award. Accurately acknowledging funding support in publications allows funding agencies to assess award outputs and make decisions regarding the direction of future research. Improperly citing awards or failing to acknowledge an award makes it difficult to understand progress resulting from research investments.
Recipients should only acknowledge awards on publications and other statements when the activities that contributed to the publication:
- directly arise from the award; and
- are within the scope of the award being acknowledged.
Similarly, recipients should cite publications in progress and final reports only if the publication was specifically supported by, and directly related to the award.
Recipients who acknowledge federal funding support in a publication that has a foreign co-author(s) and/or acknowledges support from a foreign entity should be able to explain the foreign co-author's contribution to the work/publication.
The International Engagement team monitors evolving regulations and presents information and training on university and federal regulations and policies related to international engagements. Contact the team with questions.