The Research & Innovation Office at the University of Colorado Boulder is focused on creating global impact by cultivating and supporting collaboration, transformation and leadership. At the heart of this focus are the diverse contributions of a wide range of world-class experts, working together to accelerate ideas throughout the entire innovation lifecycle. While our commitment to this mission depends on and encourages international and external collaboration in research and scholarship, the integrity of the institution and its research hinges on maintaining a culture of transparency regarding relationships with outside entities.

Most sponsors require disclosure of all resources (including both financial and in-kind) made available to a researcher in support of and/or related to all of their research endeavors. The addition of a foreign component to an ongoing project often requires prior approval.  Additionally, many sponsors now require disclosure of any appointment or consultant arrangement made with an external (domestic or foreign) entity, whether the affiliation to that entity is paid or unpaid.

Specifically, U.S. federal sponsors (NIH and NSF, in particular) have clarified, and arguably expanded, the scope of direct-to-sponsor reporting requirements.  Thus, even if an individual’s DEPA does not trigger COIC conflict management requirements, the document may reveal or imply the receipt of “other support” or engagement in external activities that should be directly disclosed to the sponsor to avoid future allegations of wrongdoing or breach of contract.  Depending upon the relevant federal agency, reportable activities and benefits include monetary resources as well as non-monetary support such as:

  • laboratory or office access
  • equipment access
  • supplies
  • a title or affiliation (whether full-time, part-time, seasonal, voluntary, adjunct, visiting or honorary)
  • no cost or low cost employee, staff or research services
  • invitation to consult or participate in a talent recruitment program

There is a growing concern among national security experts that universities with federal funding from the US government are becoming targets of foreign interference and espionage. Expanded disclosure requirements aim to maintain principles of American universities-- research integrity, academic freedom and the open exchange of ideas-- while also taking precautions to protect our national security from intellectual property theft and espionage. See the exerpt from the National Security Presidential Memorandum 33 below:

"The United States Government provides significant support to R&D across a broad spectrum of research institutions and programs conducted both within and outside of the United States and its territories. This R&D, including both basic and applied research, is a key contributor to American science and technology (S&T) innovation and is essential to United States economic and national security.

Much of United States Government-supported R&D is broadly shared and includes fundamental research as defined in National Security Decision Directive (NSDD)-189 as well as scientific research using publicly available data. The open and collaborative nature of the United States R&D enterprise underpins America’s innovation, S&T leadership, economic competitiveness, and national security.

Unfortunately, some foreign governments, including the People’s Republic of China, have not demonstrated a reciprocal dedication to open scientific exchange, and seek to exploit open United States and international research environments to circumvent the costs and risks of conducting research, thereby increasing their economic and military competitiveness at the expense of the United States, its allies, and its partners. While maintaining an open environment to foster research discoveries and innovation that benefit our Nation and the world, the United States will also take steps to protect intellectual capital, discourage research misappropriation, and ensure responsible management of United States taxpayer dollars. This includes steps to ensure that participants with significant influence on the United States R&D enterprise fully disclose information that can reveal potential conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment."

The National Security Presidential Memorandum 33 defines Foreign Talent Recruitment Program as:

" effort directly or indirectly organized, managed, or funded by a foreign government or institution to recruit S&T professionals or students (regardless of citizenship or national origin, and whether having a full-time or part-time position).  Some foreign government-sponsored talent recruitment programs operate with the intent to import or otherwise acquire from abroad, sometimes through illicit means, proprietary technology or software, unpublished data and methods, and intellectual property to further the military modernization goals and/or economic goals of a foreign government.  Many, but not all, programs aim to incentivize the targeted individual to relocate physically to the foreign state for the above purpose.  Some programs allow for or encourage continued employment at United States research facilities or receipt of Federal research funds while concurrently working at and/or receiving compensation from a foreign institution, and some direct participants not to disclose their participation to United States entities.  Compensation could take many forms including cash, research funding, complimentary foreign travel, honorific titles, career advancement opportunities, promised future compensation, or other types of remuneration or consideration, including in-kind compensation."

*Note that, generally, an invitation by a foreign state to simply attend or present work at an international conference would not constitute recruitment.

Many Federal sponsors may also deny funding based on a “covered individual’s” affiliation with a malign foreign talent recruitment program. According to DoD, “covered individuals” are those who are “essential to the successful performance” of the research and listed as key personnel in project proposals, such as principal or co-principal investigators. A foreign talent recruit program is deemed to be a malign foreign talent recruitment program if it is sponsored by a “foreign country of concern”—i.e., the People’s Republic of China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and the Islamic Republic of Iran—or sponsored by programs connected to these governments, including Changjiang Scholar Distinguished Professorship, Hundred Talents Plan, Pearl River Talent Program, Project 5-100, River Talents Plan, and Thousand Talents Plan. Additionally, if an entity on the foreign entity list sponsors a foreign talent recruitment program, then that program is also deemed a malign foreign talent recruitment program.

Note: In anticipation of the August 2024 date for implementation pursuant to Section 10632 of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, University of Colorado Boulder is currently reviewing our own processes and anticipates that a formal policy restricting CU Boulder faculty and staff from participating in a malign foreign talent recruitment program will be issued.

The DOD has issued a formal policy, effective August 2024, outlining a decision matrix on how disclosed information could lead to funding denials The matrix lists four types of researcher activity that will lead DOD to require risk mitigation measures as a condition of making the award: participating in certain talent recruitment programs, actively receiving funding from foreign countries of concern, filing patents in a foreign country of concern prior to filing in the U.S., and maintaining associations with entities of concern, such as those on the Commerce Department’s “entity list.”

    Identification of External Activities in the DEPA Form

    External activities and participation in Foreign Talent Recruitment Programs disclosed by CU faculty and staff in their DEPA Form may be subject to reporting requirements set by federal sponsors. Below is OCG's current process for ensuring these external activities are disclosed to our sponsors:

    1. The Office of Contracts and Grants (OCG) will review submitted DEPA forms for all individuals who have indicated they have active sponsored project funding from a federal institution AND have disclosed external activities and/or participation in a Foreign Talent Recruitment Program.
    2. Once the OCG DEPA review is conducted, the individual will be contacted with next steps and/or follow-up questions to determine if additional disclosures need to be made on existing federal sponsor proposals and/or awards.