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November 12, 2020

 

Sent on behalf of Carol A. Fierke, 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 continues to support 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.

This guidance is a further reminder and update to previous emails about outside activity reporting requirements dated June 10, 2019 and November 6, 2019 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 the 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 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:

  1. National Institutes of Health (NIH)

    Information on other active and pending support may be requested by NIH to ensure there is no scientific budgetary or commitment overlap. This applies to proposals, Just-in-Time, and RPPR progress reports. Specifically, NIH requires that Other Support include: “…all financial resources, whether Federal, non-Federal, commercial or institutional, available in direct support of an individual's research endeavors, including but not limited to research grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, and/or institutional awards. Training awards, prizes, or gifts do not need to be included.”

    Instructions for completing Other Support documents may be found on the NIH website. NIH also has a helpful chart that lists examples of what to disclose for Senior/Key Personnel on applications and awards. As a reminder, NIH previously issued Guide Notice NOT-OD-19-114 on July 10, 2019 to remind investigators about the need to report foreign and domestic activities relevant to their sponsored projects through careful documentation of other support, foreign components, and adherence to financial conflict of interest reporting processes.

  2. National Science Foundation (NSF)

    Effective October 5, 2020, if an organization discovers that a principal investigator (PI) or co-PI on an active NSF award failed to disclose current support or in-kind contribution information as part of the proposal submission process, the institution must submit the information outlined in Article 38 within 30 calendar days of the identification of the undisclosed current support or in-kind contribution. NSF’s brief summary of their changes to the Research Terms and Conditions, including a summary of Article 38, may be found here.

  3. U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)

    On December 13, 2019, DOE issued Order 142.3A that removed an exemption to a foreign national approval process for institutions of higher education. Prior to this change, institutions of higher education were not required to obtain DOE approvals for foreign national participants conducting fundamental research.

    On September 4, 2020, DOE issued Order 486.1A. DOE has included a requirement in certain awards that require their review and approval of all foreign nationals (as defined by DOE, anyone who is not a U.S. citizen by birth or naturalization) supporting the project. This requires submission of additional documentation to DOE for each foreign national on the project.

  4. U.S. Department of Defense (DOD)

    As a reminder, DOD released a letter on October 10, 2019 addressed to the academic community describing threats to our collaborative research environment by foreign governments and outlining steps taken by DOD and other federal agencies to protect the integrity of the research enterprise. Specifically, DOD reiterates the need for research personnel to fully disclose conflicts of interest and commitment as follows: “all research and research-related educational activities conducted through DOD research grants, cooperative agreements, technology investment agreements, and other non-procurement transactions require key-personnel to disclose all current and pending projects, time commitments to other projects, and funding sources at the time of application.”

    Proposers must now submit the following information for all key personnel (in addition to the PI or Co-PI) whether or not the individual’s efforts under the project are to be funded by DOD:

    • A list of all current projects the individual is working on, in addition to any future support the individual has applied to receive, regardless of the source.
    • Title and objectives of the other research projects.
    • The percentage per year to be devoted to the other projects.
    • The total amount of support the individual is receiving in connection to each of the other research projects or will receive if other proposals are awarded.
    • Name and address of the agencies and/or other parties supporting the other research projects.
    • Period of performance for the other research projects.

     

  5. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    As a reminder, NASA has long-standing restrictions on using NASA funds to enter into agreements “to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company, at the prime recipient level or at any subrecipient level, whether the bilateral involvement is funded or performed under a no-exchange of funds arrangement.” This prohibits Texas A&M from collaborating with or issuing a subaward to China or a Chinese-owned company as part of a NASA project (even if the activity is unfunded).

Please contact the Division of Research with any questions at 979.862.6419 or .