International Engagement

Assessing and Managing International Collaborations in Research

Know Your International Partners

When engaging in international research and other professional activities, whether as part of your U-M role or external to U-M (e.g., outside activities), it is important to assess your international partners. An initial consideration is the country where the partner (either entity or individual(s)) is located.

  • Is the country comprehensively embargoed (i.e., Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and the Crimean, Donetsk, and Luhansk Regions of Ukraine)? You should contact and work with the U-M Export Controls Office early in the process as most activities and collaborations with these countries, associated entities, or individuals from these countries require an export control license. 
  • Is the entity or individual(s) on a U.S. restricted party list prohibiting receipt of export-controlled items, information, or technology? Ask your department to conduct restricted party screening on the entity and individual(s) you are considering engaging with at the outset to determine if they are subject to restrictions. If you have questions, contact exportcontrols@umich.edu

Another consideration is whether the country is designated as a “Foreign Country of Concern” or “FCOC” (i.e., Iran, Russia, China, and North Korea) in the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. Research and other professional activities (e.g., foreign institution affiliations) with entities or collaborators in a FCOC may garner additional scrutiny by some federal agencies when considering funding an award (e.g., in areas involving critical and emerging technologies or military or dual use research). Senior/key personnel with affiliations that are considered high risk, where risks cannot be satisfactorily mitigated by the PI and U-M (e.g., through training or other measures to reduce identified risks), may be requested to be removed from a federal agreement by the sponsor. If you have questions about a research or professional international activity, including outside activities and contracts, contact InternationalResearchGuidance@umich.edu.

Establish and Understand the Parameters of the Engagement

When assessing potential collaborations, whether foreign or domestic, it is important to understand and establish the parameters of the engagement. The following are questions to consider, many derived from a 2019 JASON advisory group report, Fundamental Research Security, commissioned by the National Science Foundation.

  • Are the terms of the engagement made clear in writing? Are all participants known?
  • Are there any aspects of the engagement that are not to be disclosed to any of the participants? If so, what is the reason?
  • Is there any aspect of the engagement that seems unusual, unnecessary, or poorly specified?
  • Where do the funding and other resources needed for the activity come from? Is it clear what each party is providing?
  • Are tangible assets of the engagement, existing or to be generated, known? How will they be shared? Who decides how they are allocated?
  • Has ownership of any intellectual property that results from the research or activities been established?
  • How does a participant end their engagement?
  • Are scholars expected to reside away from their home institution as a part of the engagement? Are the terms consistent with U-M’s/your school and department’s policy for outside activities?
  • What are the reporting requirements back to sponsoring institutions or organizations?
  • Who will control the dissemination of the resulting research? Will the results be publishable? What are the plans for publication?
  • Is there relevant expertise on both sides? Are both sides contributing meaningfully to the research? Will both sides benefit intellectually?
  • Does the collaboration involve specific sponsors, research topics, or types of interaction that should be ruled out a priori, e.g., due to potential military applications or adverse human rights consequences?

Prohibition of Engagement in Malign Foreign Talent Recruitment Programs

Ensure that outside activities and associated agreements do not include terms deemed of risk by the U.S., whether part of an official foreign talent recruitment program (FTRP) or employment or other outside agreement. Central concerns include overlap or duplication of U.S. funded research, unauthorized transfer of unpublished U.S. research data, methodology, and intellectual property, and overcommitment on U.S. funded projects due to engagement in undisclosed international activities.

CHIPS and Science Act Prohibition on Malign FTRPs

The CHIPS and Science Act of August 9, 2022 requires federal research funding agencies to establish a policy requiring:

  • Certification by senior/key personnel at proposal, and annually for the duration of the award, that they are not a party to a malign FTRP as defined in the Act.
  • Senior/key personnel to disclose participation in FTRP contracts, agreements, or other arrangements.
  • Certification by the institution that such individuals have been made aware of the requirement.

Agencies are required to have these policies in place by August 09, 2024. The Act also directs the White House to develop guidelines for research funding agencies that:

  • Prohibit R&D awards from being made to senior/key personnel participating in malign FTRPs and,
  • Requires recipient institutions [U-M] to prohibit these individuals from working on projects supported by federal R&D awards.

Department of Defense (DoD) Prohibition on Malign FTRPs

In June 2023, DoD released Countering Unwanted Foreign Influence in Department-funded Research at Institutions of Higher Education. The document includes a Policy on Risk-based Security Reviews of Fundamental Research and a Decision Matrix. Per the matrix:

  • DoD prohibits department funding after August 9, 2024, if the proposing institution [U-M] does not have a malign FTRP policy/prohibition in place.

The U-M Policy Prohibiting Participation in Malign Foreign Talent Recruitment Programs, which includes the CHIPS and Science Act definition.

Certification that Senior/key Personnel are not a Party in a Malign FTRP

Common disclosure forms intended for federal-wide implementation were finalized in November 2023 and will be adopted by agencies in the coming months:

The forms include certification to be completed by each senior/key person at the time of submission and annually thereafter that they are not a party in a malign FTRP.

Moving Forward with an International Collaboration

After assessment of international collaborators and the terms of the collaboration, ensure appropriate written agreements are in place (e.g., data and material transfer and use agreements and/or collaborative agreements) to protect property and unpublished work and to facilitate achievement of goals and objectives.  Information on unfunded agreements and how to route them can be found on the Office of Research Sponsored Projects webpage

Disclosure of the collaboration is also indicated, to both U-M and outside entities (e.g., federal funding agencies).