Protecting Against Foreign Influence

Protecting Against Foreign Influence

The University of Central Florida (UCF) is committed to facilitating open and publicly accessible research and scholarly activities both domestically and internationally.  International activities and partnerships are a valued and key part of the academic experience.  UCF is also committed to adhering to federal and state laws and regulations related to the disclosure of financial interests and outside activities with international partners.  Multiple units at UCF are available and happy to assist faculty, staff, and students in meeting these reporting requirements.  The purpose of this webpage is to assist the UCF community in better understanding the risks related to inappropriate foreign influence, ways to mitigate those risks, and how to meet federal and state reporting requirements related to foreign influence.  

The UCF community is encouraged to continue engaging in international partnerships and activities.  International partnerships and international activities are a key and valuable part of academia.

For general questions regarding inappropriate foreign influence, please do not hesitate to contact Ashley.Guritza@ucf.edu.

What is inappropriate foreign influence?

The U.S. Government, including several federal agencies that fund UCF’s research, has expressed concerns regarding inappropriate influence by foreign entities, foreign governments, and foreign individuals on U.S. institutions and researchers.  This is commonly referred to as foreign influence.  The Florida State Legislature has also expressed these concerns.

Key concerns related to inappropriate foreign influence include, but are not limited to:

  • the failure of researchers to disclose support from outside activities or foreign organizations;
  • unlawfully sharing non-public information by researchers;
  • undisclosed significant financial conflicts of interest;
  • unlawful transfer of U.S. intellectual property, data, or unpublished research results;
  • unlawful transfer of research materials and samples;
  • agreements with foreign entities that may impose obligations on researchers that are contrary to university policies and/or federal and state laws and regulations; and
  • data security and cyberattack vulnerabilities. 

The above concerns impact all types of scholarly activity, including, but not limited to, research, student engagement, and intellectual property protection.  Inappropriate foreign influence can have a major impact on the integrity of UCF and UCF’s ability to obtain federal funding. 

What is an example of inappropriate foreign influence?

An example of inappropriate foreign influence includes participation in a foreign government talent/recruitment program and failing to disclose participation in that program in accordance with applicable federal and state laws and regulations.  Such programs are generally defined as foreign state-sponsored attempts to acquire U.S. scientific-funded research or technology through foreign government-run or funded recruitment programs.  Unfortunately, a number of foreign government talent/recruitment programs are intertwined with the concerns outlined above.

What do researchers need to do?

The best way for researchers to mitigate concerns regarding inappropriate foreign influence are by educating themselves, their staff, and their students about relevant regulations and policies, completing all federal, state, and UCF disclosure requirements, and providing ongoing communications regarding any new or changing relationships with foreign entities.

UCF has policies and procedures in place to assist with meeting the above requirements, but in general researchers should:

  • Meet sponsor disclosure requirements.
  • Disclose financial interests and outside activities to UCF.
  • Ensure that they and their staff are current with Export Control policies and procedures.
  • Disclose Inventions and Other Intellectual Property.
  • Limit engagements with High Risk Entities.

Meet Sponsor Disclosure Requirements

When seeking federally funded research, many federal agencies have added or reiterated reporting requirements related to outside activities and financial interests with foreign entities.  Please note that federal and state agencies may release further guidance over the coming months, so be aware that information and requirements may change at any time.

Multiple federal agencies including, but not limited to, DOE, DOD, NSF and NIH have reporting requirements related to foreign activities when seeking federally funded research. 

  • For DOE, DOD, and NSF, foreign activities should be disclosed within Current and Pending Support and/or the Biosketch.
  • For NIH, foreign activities should be disclosed in Other Support, Foreign Component, Facilities and Resources, and/or the Biosketch.
  • What is required to be disclosed depends on the particular agency.  To identify disclosure requirements related to a particular funding opportunity, individuals seeking federal funding for research should review:
    • The individual agency announcement,
    • The funding notice, the agency guidebook, and
    • The award terms and conditions. 

Please note, the failure to fully disclose foreign activities to federal agencies can have serious consequences on the ability of individuals and UCF to obtain future federal funding.

If you have questions regarding particular disclosure requirements, please work with your proposal manager and/or contract manager. 

Disclose Financial Interests and Outside Activities to UCF

In addition to the federal requirements mentioned above, Florida State Statue 1012.977 was enacted on July 1, 2020 to also address the concerns related to inappropriate foreign influence.  To assist faculty, staff and students in meeting these reporting requirements, UCF amended the online AA-21 disclosure to include a new question, Question 12.  Question 12 only applies to individuals engaged in research at UCF. 

The purpose of obtaining responses to this question is to provide employees the mechanism to comply with the federal and state disclosure requirements and allow UCF to evaluate whether there is a potential inappropriate foreign influence risk that requires additional review by UCF. 

For more information about what and how to disclose to UCF, please visit compliance.ucf.edu/conflict-of-interest/.

For questions regarding the AA-21 Form and process, please contact: PCA@ucf.edu.

Ensure that You are Current with Export Control Policies and Procedures

In general, export controls are federal laws that govern the export of controlled items and technical data to foreign countries and foreign nationals. While inappropriate foreign influence does not just target export-controlled technologies and data, the UCF community can help mitigate the risks of inappropriate foreign influence by making sure to comply with all applicable U.S. export control regulations, UCF export policies, and project-specific plans (if applicable).  For more information on export control compliance, please see www.research.ucf.edu/ExportControl/index.html.

For questions regarding export control compliance, please contact: Ashley.Guritza@ucf.edu.

Disclose Inventions and Other Intellectual Property

Another way to help mitigate the risks of inappropriate foreign influence is to disclose intellectual property to the UCF Technology Transfer Office in accordance with UCF policy.  For more information on intellectual property protection and UCF policies, please see tt.research.ucf.edu/

Case Studies

The U.S. Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations issued a report titled, Threats to the U.S. Research Enterprise: China’s Talent Recruitment Programs. As appendices to that report, the Subcommittee provided two documents that outline problematic scenarios and contracts:

Reviewing these documents can also assist with mitigating the risks associated with inappropriate foreign influence.

Resources and Sources