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Policy No: 2066
Responsible Office: Information Technology & Risk Compliance / Office of Research Compliance and Assurance
Last Review Date: 10/05/2020
Next Required Review: 10/05/2025

Policy on Foreign Influence: Responsibilities Regarding Reporting and Disclosure Requirements


1. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to reinforce University of South Alabama’s (USA) commitment to protecting federally-funded sponsored awards and expected obligations under the University’s and Federal policies. The policy includes requirements for compliance with mandatory reporting of all sources of research or project-related support, financial interests, and relevant affiliations as well as steps to reduce risk to intellectual property.

This policy also outlines the University of South Alabama’s commitment to adhere to the federal governments reporting requirements for certain gifts from foreign sources, defined as individuals (non-citizen, non-national), corporations, foundations, or other non- government and government entities.

2. Applicability

All USA researchers and development staff are responsible for maintaining the obligations listed below to ensure the integrity of research.

3. Definitions

Conflict of Commitment: A potential Conflict of Commitment exists when a faculty or staff member’s external relationships or activities have the possibility (either in actuality or in appearance) of interfering or competing with the University’s educational, research, or service missions, or with that individual’s ability or willingness to perform the full range of responsibilities associated with his or her position.

Current and Pending Support: A term generally used by all non-NIH federal sponsors and other types of funding entities to request the submission of information for key personnel's active and pending review or awarded research funding. This information is submitted at the time of proposal. The format varies by sponsor. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and other sponsors typically call this "Current and Pending" Support. NIH typically refers to it as "Other Support."

Foreign Influence: The U.S. Government expressed concerns regarding inappropriate influence of foreign entities, governments, or individuals on U.S. institutions and researchers.

Other Support: The term other support is specific to NIH and entails the submission of information regarding research funding that is either active (awarded) or pending review or award. The information needs to be submitted for all key personnel and include all financial resources, whether funded through the University or not, such as Federal, non-Federal, commercial or organizational support, available in direct support of an individual's research endeavors, including, but not limited to, research grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, or organizational awards.

Donation: The term donation is a voluntary, irrevocable, gratuitous transfer to, and acceptance by, South Alabama, or by any university employee acting in their official capacity as an employee of the University of South Alabama, of cash or cash equivalent, securities, assets or properties of value. Gifts are recorded and are “accepted” through the execution of an instrument that legally vests an interest of value with the University of South Alabama.

4. Policy Guidelines

USA faculty or awardee involved in research activities supported by federal funding must do the following:

4.1  Track and disclose all forms of support and financial interests via current and pending support in proposals to sponsors and to the University. Examples of what to disclose in proposal applications include, but are not limited to, foreign or domestic grants, cooperative agreements, contracts and institutional awards. Additionally, include any planned collaborations, foreign and domestic, and the scope of the collaboration including the exchange of information, materials or data.

4.2  Update NIH other support documentation whenever there are changes. For NSF current and pending support, all sources of support (e.g., Federal, State, local or foreign government agencies, public or private foundations, industrial or other commercial organizations, or internal funds allocated toward specific projects) and commitments of time, even if not receiving salary support, must be included.

4.3  Disclose your outside professional activities, whether compensated or uncompensated, through the External Professional Activities form. External consulting and professional activities should not create a conflict of commitment with an individual’s institutional responsibilities. In addition to “Other Professional and External Activity Reports”; disclose to USA all external financial interests (NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-18-160, Financial Conflict of Interest: Investigator Disclosures of Foreign Financial Interests), affiliations, fiduciary roles, and non-USA sponsored travel that could be reasonably related to your institutional responsibilities through the University’s conflict of interest disclosure process. This includes any financial interests, relationships or affiliations with foreign entities, including foreign institutions of higher education or the government of another country.

4.4  Biographical Sketches must be current and thorough in compliance with sponsor requirements.

4.5  Progress reports must indicate any change in support for all key personnel that occurred over the period covered by the report.

4.6  For Public Health Service (PHS) agency sponsored research and designated non-PHS agencies, conflict of interest disclosures need to occur in accordance with the funder’s requirements, prior to application being submitted, annually thereafter, and whenever financial interests change.

4.7  Report inventions promptly as follows:

4.7.1  To the Office of Commercialization and Industry Collaboration, the University’s technology transfer office, via the online Inventor Portal.

4.7.2  To federal research sponsors as part of progress reporting and in compliance with other federal invention reporting requirements.

4.8  Use reasonable efforts to protect USA’s interest (and, in the case of federally-funded sponsored awards, the federal government’s interest) in intellectual property developed in the course of USA research.

4.9  Intellectual property developed at USA is subject to USA’s Patent and Invention Policy.

4.10  Work with the Sponsored Projects Administration to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement with collaborators if working on sensitive data or technology.

4.11  Individuals serving on NIH, NSF or other scientific peer review panels should note and comply with all requirements to maintain the confidentiality of the information in research grant applications or other academic materials under review.

4.12 The USA Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED) will conduct reviews of submissions to ensure compliance with federal disclosure requirements and to ensure the integrity of USA research. Faculty, if requested, are required to cooperate with ORED personnel in this review process.

The University of South Alabama must adhere to the federal governments reporting requirements for certain gifts from foreign sources, defined as individuals (non-citizen, non-national), corporations, foundations, or other non-government and government entities:

4.13  The University is required to report to the U.S. Department of Education each January 31 and July 31 on gifts, grants, and contracts received from foreign sources aggregating on an annual basis in excess of $250,000 (no matter if that amount is from one gift or the aggregated total of gifts from that source within the calendar year). In the report, the University is required to provide the amount of the gift, grant or contract, and the country of origin.

The Office of Development and Alumni Relations prepares the report on gifts for submission to the Associate Vice President, Finance and Administration, Grants and Contracts Accounting, and the Director, Information Technology and Risk Compliance.

5. Procedures

Taking steps in accord with established University policies will help ensure that international collaborations and other global engagement activities are transparent and in full compliance with applicable policies and regulations.

The USA website Guidance on Foreign Influence in University Research provides information on matters relating to foreign influence and associated practices, guidance, and updates provided by the NIH and other federal funding agencies.

As a best practice, any support from a foreign entity (whether financial or non-financial) or foreign engagement that you would acknowledge in public presentations or publications is something that you must also disclose in grant applications, annual reports and closeout summaries. Additionally, when collaborating with foreign individuals and organizations, confirm that they are not subject to U.S. embargoes or sanctions.

In January and July of each year, the Director of Advancement Information & Analytics will provide the Associate Vice President, Finance and Administration, Grants and Contracts Accounting and the Director, Information Technology and Risk Compliance, with a list of any donation, which includes pledges made and non-pledged payments, from a foreign source to include the donor’s name, the gift amount and the date of the gift. Any single donation received of $250,000 or more during a calendar year, or of multiple donations from the same foreign source totaling $250,000 or more during a calendar year will be reported immediately. The Director, Information Technology and Risk Compliance will ensure that the required semi-annual reporting (January and July) is submitted, as needed, to the U. S. Department of Education.

6. Enforcement

It is important to note that it is the responsibility of the researcher to comply with these obligations. Failure to disclose research support or financial conflicts of interest or commitment required by federal agencies may lead to potential civil and criminal liability for researchers and institutions.  Additionally, failure by a faculty member to comply may with the obligations contained in this policy could result in the faculty member’s research submission process being halted until such time as the faculty member comes into compliance.

7. Related Documents

USA website:

Guidance Regarding Foreign Influence in University Research

Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form Guidelines