Inappropriate Foreign Influence

Last updated 12-8-2020

Introduction

As one of the world's leading research institutions, Princeton University seeks out a wide range of mutually-beneficial international collaborations. Additionally, Princeton welcomes talented scientists and scholars from around the globe. These individuals strengthen its research and teaching activities as well as its commitment of service to the nation and humanity. 

Over the last years, U.S. government representatives on both sides of the aisle as well as federal law enforcement agencies have expressed growing concern about “foreign influence”, or security threats posed to the United States by actors representing non-U.S. interests. “Foreign influence” can be a concern in different arenas of American society, including the U.S. research enterprise.  Princeton takes these concerns seriously. At the same time, Princeton recognizes that language is important here. Given our institutional commitment to diversity and global engagement, we have not internally adopted the term “foreign influence” used by the U.S. government. We instead refer to this activity as “inappropriate foreign influence”.

Many of Princeton’s major federal sponsors have issued guidance regarding inappropriate foreign influence.  Links to sponsor-specific guidance appear below.  Princeton has developed a set of principles designed to guide the formulation of policies and practices related to inappropriate foreign influence, while upholding the University’s core values of openness, respect and inclusion. 

The issues raising concern for agencies and federal funders can be summarized as:

  • Failure to fully disclose information on outside activities: Failure by some researchers to fully disclose substantial or overlapping commitments to or resources from organizations outside their “home” institution, including significant professional or employment-related engagements such as appointments at foreign institutions, etc. via their institutions’ internal disclosure processes and/or in sponsored program proposals or progress reports.
  • Loss of intellectual property: A number of reported instances of unauthorized removal of data from research laboratories in the U.S. have resulted in the loss of intellectual property including, in some instances, publication of the misappropriated data before the U.S. scientists and institutions from which it was taken were able to publish.
  • Noncompliance with regulatory requirements: U.S. export control laws and regulations establish a set of requirements for transfer of technology and data to foreign countries and/or foreign nationals, including persons in the U.S., in order to protect the national and economic security of the U.S.
  • Breaches of integrity in the peer review process: Sharing of confidential information in grant applications with unauthorized parties by peer reviewers, including foreign entities, or otherwise inappropriately attempting to influence federal agencies’ funding decisions.

Researchers and research administrators at Princeton should confirm current disclosure requirements, ask questions as appropriate, and work to keep disclosures up to date. Disclosure requirements currently vary between sponsors.  Please see specific sponsor guidance below.  If in doubt, investigators should contact their ORPA Grant and Contract Administrator for disclosure assistance or further guidance.  

 

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