Higher education institutions acknowledge that many countries sponsor talent recruitment programs to attract researchers in targeted fields. Many programs utilize legitimate, transparent mechanisms of talent recruitment, including use of research fellowships, student and scholar exchanges, and grants. However, some programs provide direction or levy requirements, including through language in binding contracts, that create conflicts of interest and/or conflicts of commitment for researchers; some have been shown to encourage or direct unethical and even criminal behaviors.

Recent government guidance has shifted focus to foreign talent recruitment programs, especially malign foreign talent recruitment programs (MFTRP). The CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 directs federal research sponsors to maintain policies that:

  1. Require covered individuals to disclose all participation in MFTRPs, and
  2. Prohibit recipients of federal support from participating in any MFTRPs

If you partake in research, please complete the international engagement form prior to entering any new international engagements and/or collaborations. Please contact Research Compliance with any questions at ResearchCompliance@northeastern.edu.  

Disclosure Requirements to Sponsors of Participation in FTRPs

The CHIPS & Science Act requires federal agencies to implement policies requiring all PIs and senior/key personnel to disclose FTRP participation in the appropriate federal forms. All foreign appointments are required to be included in Biosketches, and any form of compensation, in-kind or funded research support, or resource provided by the foreign entity must be included in the Current and Pending/Other Support form.

Currently the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Energy (DOE) have created and released policies addressing participation in MFTRPs. NSF has released their draft 2024 PAPPG which also addresses MFTRPs.        

National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) 33 requires disclosure of foreign contracts to research agencies. Consistent with NSPM-33, research agencies will require that individuals disclose contracts associated with participation in programs sponsored by foreign governments, instrumentalities, or entities, including foreign government-sponsored talent recruitment programs, upon request of the recipient research organization or the research agency. Some research agencies may choose to incorporate this request as a standard required element of their R&D award application process. Research agencies also may require disclosure of a broader range of contracts pertaining to foreign activities, beyond those associated with participation in foreign government-sponsored programs (e.g., contracts, grants, and all other agreements for foreign participation, whether sponsored by a foreign government). Non-disclosure clauses associated with these contracts are not acceptable exemptions from this disclosure requirement.

NU-RES Research Compliance is here to help research administration staff and researchers navigate the research security realm. We are happy to review and screen potential foreign talent programs that researchers are considering joining and provide advice on how they can continue to collaborate internationally while protecting their research and IP.

Related Definitions

Covered Individual as defined by NSPM-33 is an individual who (a) contributes in a substantive, meaningful way to the scientific development or execution of a research and development project proposed to be carried out with a research and development award from a Federal research agency; and (b) is designated as a covered individual by the Federal research agency concerned. Consistent with NSPM-33, this means principal investigators (PIs) and other senior/key personnel seeking or receiving Federal research and development funding (i.e., extramural funding) and researchers at Federal agency laboratories and facilities (i.e., intramural researchers, whether or not federally employed), including Government-owned, contractor-operated laboratories and facilities.

Foreign Talent Recruitment Program as defined by NSPM-33 is an effort organized, managed, or funded by a foreign government, or a foreign government instrumentality or entity, to recruit science and technology professionals or students (regardless of citizenship or national origin, or whether having a full-time or part-time position). Malign Foreign Talent Recruitment Programs are defined if the arrangement is described in Section A below, and has at least one factor from Section B and at least one factor from Section C, the arrangement falls within the C&S Act’s definition of a MFTRP:

A. Definition
Any program, position, or activity that includes compensation in the form of cash, in-kind compensation, including research funding, promised future compensation, complementary foreign travel, things of non de minimis value, honorific titles, career advancement opportunities, or other types of renumeration or consideration directly provided by a foreign country at any level (national, provincial, or local) or their designee, or an entity based in, funded by, or affiliated with a foreign country, whether or not directly sponsored by the foreign country, to the targeted individual, whether directly or indirectly stated in the arrangement, contract, or other documentation at issue –”

B. Problematic Obligations/Activities
In exchange for the individual —

(1) engaging in the unauthorized transfer of intellectual property, materials, data products, or other nonpublic information owned by a United States entity or developed with a Federal research and development award to the government of a foreign country, or an entity based in, funded by, or affiliated with a foreign country regardless of whether that government or entity provided support for the development of the intellectual property, materials, or data products;

(2) being required to recruit trainees or researchers to enroll in such program, position, or activity;

(3) establishing a laboratory or company, accepting a faculty position, or undertaking any other employment or appointment in a foreign country or with an entity based in, funded by, or affiliated with a foreign country if such activities are in violation of the standard terms and conditions of a Federal research and development award;

(4) being unable to terminate the foreign talent recruitment program contract or agreement except in extraordinary circumstances;

(5) through funding or effort related to the foreign talent recruitment program, being limited in the capacity to carry out a research and development award or required to engage in work that would result in substantial overlap or duplication with a Federal research and development award;

(6) being required to apply for and successfully receive funding from the sponsoring foreign government’s funding agencies with the sponsoring foreign organization as the recipient;

(7) being required to omit acknowledgement of the recipient institution with which the individual is affiliated, or the Federal rsearch agency sponsoring the research and development award, contrary to the institutional policies or standard terms and conditions of the Federal research and development award;

(8) being required to not disclose to the Federal research agency or employing institution the participation of such individual in such program, position, or activity; or

(9) having a conflict of interest or conflict of commitment contrary to the standard terms and conditions of the Federal research and development award;

C. Problematic Sponsorship
And is a program sponsored by —

(1) a foreign country of concern (FCOC), currently defined as:
– China,
– Iran,
– North Korea, and
– Russia;

(2) an entity based in a FCOC, whether or not the program is directly sponsored by the government of the FCOC; or

(3) an academic institution or a foreign talent recruitment program identified by the DOD.