Update on Outside Activity Reporting Requirements
April 29, 2021
Sent on behalf of Mark H. Weichold, Interim Provost and Executive Vice President, and Mark A. Barteau, Vice President for Research
Members of the Texas A&M research community:
Texas A&M University supports academic freedom and the ability of researchers and scholars to communicate, exchange ideas, and collaborate with the brightest minds in the world to advance knowledge and the application of that knowledge to benefit the nation and the world. There is growing concern among Federal agencies regarding certain agreements and activities between U.S.-based researchers and various foreign universities and institutions. The existence of such agreements and/or activities may have a negative impact on federal funding decisions for individual researchers. Of utmost concern are the cases where researchers are not disclosing these relationships and activities to their home institution or to U.S. federal sponsors of their work, potentially violating the requirements of either or both.
Funding agencies have made the following clear: investigators and their universities must completely disclose all foreign activities to their sponsors.
The term “foreign influence” has not been officially defined by the federal government. However, various government agencies have identified foreign activities that require disclosure. These include, but are not limited to, foreign funding of sponsored research; foreign employment; use of unfunded (in-kind) resources from foreign sources, including equipment, staff, or laboratory/office space; participation in foreign talent programs; foreign sponsored travel; and other funded or unfunded services such as accepting any titled academic, professional, or institutional position such as honorary, visiting, or adjunct faculty positions.
This guidance is a further reminder and update to previous messages about outside activity reporting requirements dated June 10, 2019, November 6, 2019, and November 12, 2020 from Dr. Carol A. Fierke, Provost and Executive Vice President, and Dr. Mark A. Barteau, Vice President for Research. Summarized below are reminders and updates regarding Texas A&M and Federal requirements to disclose certain activities. Additional details and formal requirements are available at the links below, and apply to activities conducted both during and outside an appointment period (including summer months). Adherence to these requirements is important to ensure continued access to federal and other research funding for Texas A&M researchers.
Complying with Texas A&M Policies and Rules
Complying with the University Financial Conflict of Interest Rule:
A Financial Conflict of Interest (FCOI) exists when there is a risk, or a perceived risk, that personal financial interests will unduly influence one’s actions. All University employees and students who are Investigators, as defined in The Texas A&M University System Regulation 15.01.03, must disclose Significant Financial Interests (SFI) and submit Financial Disclosure Statements to Texas A&M University’s Conflict of Interest (COI) Official in accordance with this rule and A&M System Regulation 15.01.03.
Complying with the University Conflict of Commitment SAP:
A Conflict of Commitment (COC) 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 Texas A&M’s educational, research, or service missions, or with that individual’s ability or willingness to perform the full range of duties and responsibilities associated with his or her position. It includes the performance of duties for an external entity substantially similar to or in competition with any portion of the individual’s employment responsibilities as described in the individual’s position description, letters of appointment, and workload assignments. Disclosures should be submitted directly to your unit head for approval prior to routing to the COI Official.
Complying with the Recently Updated External Employment Regulations Expanding the Scope of Activities Subject to Prior Approval and Requiring Export Controls Review of Consulting/Employment Involving a Foreign Entity:
A&M System Regulation 31.05.01 Faculty Consulting and/or External Professional Employment requires the disclosure and prior approval of faculty consulting and/or external professional employment. In addition, the regulation was recently revised to require export controls review of any faculty consulting and/or external professional employment with a foreign entity. This review must be conducted by the member’s export controls office prior to submission of the request to the CEO or designee for review and approval. It should be noted that the regulation also states that the provision of certain types of scholarly or research expertise to foreign entities without compensation constitutes faculty consulting and/or external professional employment for purposes of this regulation. These types include, but are not limited to, participation in scholarly or scientific research projects or publications required to be disclosed to any agency of the U.S. government, as well as communication of any information subject to export control, publication restriction or confidentiality agreement.
A&M System Regulation 31.05.02 External Employment requires the disclosure and prior approval of all external employment of employees other than faculty covered by A&M System Regulation 31.05.01 (listed above). In addition, the regulation was recently revised to require export control review for any proposed external employment with a foreign entity. The member will submit the proposed engagement for review to the member’s export control office prior to submission to the CEO or designee.
Federal Updates and Reminders:
Please contact the Division of Research with any questions at 979.862.6419 or firstname.lastname@example.org.