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Disclosing International Relationships and Activities to the University of Houston and Federal Sponsors

There is growing concern regarding certain agreements and activities between university faculty members and various foreign universities and institutions. Of particular concern are cases where researchers do not disclose these relationships and activities to their university or federal sponsors. Federal regulations and federal funding agencies require investigators and their universities to disclose their foreign activities to sponsors completely. Nondisclosure of these relationships and activities may negatively impact federal funding decisions for researchers and the University.

Disclosures to UH

All University employees must disclose and obtain prior written approval to engage in consulting and paid professional service to ensure that such activities are consistent with Consulting and Paid Professional Service policies (Board of Regents Policy 57.02 and System Administrative Memorandum 02.A.08). The employee must submit a written request to his/her immediate supervisor. Submissions must include the employing entity, the nature of the proposed work, time commitment, duration, and justification of the benefit to the University. The request must be justified and may not create a conflict of interest, time, or commitment to University responsibilities.

All individuals listed as an investigator or key personnel on a research project must file a certification/disclosure regarding any Financial Conflict of Interest. See Compliance Guidance here. International relationship disclosures to sponsors not covered in the Consulting/Paid Professional Services and Financial Conflict of Interest processes are managed and monitored by the Division of Research through the proposal submission and grant management process to ensure compliance with federal guidelines. 

Disclosures to Sponsors

Federal sponsors ask institutions to provide details about their funded researchers' foreign activities even if unrelated to the project or research being proposed or sponsored. Policies and guidelines on how and when principal investigators report foreign affiliations and foreign activities are sponsor-specific and are subject to change. Below is a guide that can assist principal investigators and administrators in identifying the types of foreign engagements and affiliations to be disclosed to external sponsors. This list is not exhaustive, and principal investigators must pay close attention to individual sponsors' agreement instructions. 

For each disclosure listed below, if a conflict of interest exists, it must be reported separately through the University's Integrated Compliance Online Network (ICON). The following disclosures should be made in the proposal bio-sketch, current-and-pending, other support, and grants progress reports:

  1. All positions and affiliations, including volunteer positions, relevant to the grant or proposal application for submission.
  2. All appointments at foreign institutions – even if labeled as "guest," "adjunct," "honorary," with or without salary support.
  3. The number of person-months devoted to projects, even if there is no salary support or direct personal payments to the scientist.
  4. Income, salary, consulting fees, and honoraria in support of an individual's research endeavors. Including living expenses directly paid or reimbursed by an outside entity.
  5. Postdoctoral researchers (postdocs), students, or visiting scholars supported by a foreign government or institution.
  6. Participation in a foreign talent or similar-type programs.
  7. Performance of any significant part of the project outside of the US, whether or not funds are expended. Prior approval is needed.
  8. Travel expenses directly paid or reimbursed by an outside entity in any amount.
  9. Financial interests received from a foreign institution of higher education or a foreign government.
  10. Domestic and foreign grants and contracts, whether provided through the University or another institution, or to the researcher directly.
  11. Financial support for laboratory personnel (e.g., students, postdocs, or visiting scholars working in a researcher's lab at UH and who are supported by a foreign entity either through salary, stipend, or receipt of living or travel expenses).
  12. Provision of lab space at another institution, foreign or domestic.
  13. Donations of scientific materials (e.g., biologics, chemical, model systems, technology, equipment, etc.) that are not freely available for use at UH or another institution where the faculty is working.

Disclosing Foreign Activities to NIH as Foreign Component

NIH defines "foreign component" as the performance of any significant scientific element or segment of a project outside of the United States, either by the recipient or by a researcher employed by a foreign organization, whether or not grant funds are expended. NIH requires Other Support to be submitted as part of the Just-in-Time procedures. Researchers are responsible for promptly notifying NIH of any substantive changes to previously submitted Just-in-Time information up to the time of the award. After the initial NIH award, researchers must disclose changes in other support in the annual research performance progress report (RPPR). Additionally, for post-award disclosures of other support, recipients must address any substantive changes by submitting a prior approval request to NIH.

Disclosing Foreign Activities to Other Federal Agencies

The disclosure of foreign activities should be done within current and pending support and/or the biosketch. The current and pending support includes all resources made available to an individual in support of and/or related to all of his/her research efforts, regardless of whether or not they have a monetary value as well as in-kind contributions (such as office or laboratory space, equipment, supplies, employees, or students). See also the NSF FAQs related to reporting and pending support. For other agencies, including DOE and DOD, investigators should list foreign engagement activities with the current and pending support construct.