Funding agency investigations emphasize need for researcher disclosures
As international research collaboration continues to grow at Penn State and universities across the U.S., investigators are urged to carefully review the disclosure of their international affiliations. While the vast majority of international collaborations are acceptable — and encouraged — it is important for Penn State investigators to correctly disclose all foreign affiliations and err on the side of transparency.
The U.S. government has expressed serious concerns about the failure of researchers at American institutions to disclose their relationships with foreign institutions and governments. Several federal agencies have reminded research institutions that failure to disclose such affiliations may jeopardize eligibility for future funding.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley noted in a Feb. 6 release that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Inspector General has recently received for review 12 allegations of misconduct related to the failure to disclose foreign affiliations. The release also included a letter from NIH indicating that two cases — one regarding failure to disclose foreign financial interests and one related to theft of intellectual property — were referred to the Justice Department for prosecution.
The Office of the Vice President for Research has compiled a list of resources and information at research.psu.edu/international_affiliations in an effort to protect investigators from accusations that they are concealing or misrepresenting their affiliations with institutions or individuals outside the United States.
"We do not want to discourage international collaborations, which are imperative to scientific advancement in a shrinking world," said Neil Sharkey, vice president for research at Penn State. "Nor do we want to single out researchers engaging in international work, many of whom rank among Penn State’s finest scholars. We want to make sure that we protect our investigators from federal scrutiny or sanctions by helping them to understand how they can be completely transparent in disclosing their international affiliations."
Any researcher who participates in foreign talent programs, works at a lab or university outside the U.S., or has any significant financial interests in a foreign entity per University Policy AC80 should review the international affiliations resource and review their disclosures. Researchers who have questions regarding disclosures, or who have working relationships outside the U.S., should discuss these situations with their associate dean for research.
Sharkey noted that Penn State is working with national academic organizations such as the Council on Governmental Relations, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Association of American Universities to ensure that new federal policies do not have unintended consequences on U.S. research and innovation.
Information on adjusting or adding disclosures is available on the site, and a list of FAQs will be continuously updated as applicable.