Background

This section addresses two separate but related requirements:

  1.  The accurate reporting of “Other Support” (also known as “Current and Pending Support”) to federal funding agencies.
  2. Preventing improper foreign influences in federally funded research.

Federal funding agencies have issued new guidance that clarifies what principal investigators (PIs) and other key personnel should be disclosing about Other Support or Current and Pending Support as well as foreign collaborations at various stages of the grant lifecycle.

PIs that have failed to provide federal sponsors the required information in these areas have become the focus of institutional and funding agency concern. A growing number of these PIs also have become the subject of law enforcement scrutiny, often with serious consequences.

It is therefore important for PIs (and the research administrators [RAs] that assist PIs) to understand what is required by federal agencies relative to reporting Other/Current and Pending Support as well as foreign collaborations at the proposal, Just-in-Time (JIT), award, and/or post award stages.

Although there are currently attempts to harmonize these requirements across federal sponsors, each of the federal funding agencies have approached this matter in a slightly different manner. However, the basic concerns of federal sponsors fall into these categories:

  1. Peer review violations: Failure to preserve confidentiality during the peer review process.
  2. Conflict of Commitment:  Failure to disclose domestic and foreign employment and consulting arrangements that could result in a “conflict of commitment” for PIs and other key project personnel.
  3. Other/ Current and Pending Support: Failure to disclose research support (with or without monetary value) received from domestic and foreign entities.
  4. Conflict of Interest: Failure to disclose significant domestic and foreign financial Conflict of Interests involving equity in domestic/foreign companies and foreign patents that leverage US tax-payer funded work.
  5. Export Control: Failure to comply with U.S. Export Control laws and regulations that establish a set of requirements for the transfer of technology and data to foreign countries and/or foreign nationals in the U.S and interactions with individuals or entities on the sanctions Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctions list.

Each of these concerns are addressed in the following section to ensure that research and educational activities at Berkeley are compliant with federal regulations, state laws, university policy, and federal sponsor requirements.


Peer Review Violations

During grant and manuscript reviews, confidentiality helps protect ideas before they are funded or published. Peer reviewers have an obligation to preserve confidentiality during the review process. Remember:

  • Never share information gained through peer review processes, whether reviewing grant applications or publications. This information is confidential.
  • Declare all competing or conflicting interests when agreeing to serve as a reviewer. Check the requirements of the relevant agency or journal. If in doubt, disclose or ask.

Conflict of Commitment

Conflicts of commitment arise from situations that place competing demands on a researcher’s time and loyalties.  Federal sponsors therefore expect to be informed about the outside employment and/or consulting activities of PIs and other key project personnel from the application stage throughout the life of a federally sponsored project.  This applies to involvement with both domestic and foreign entities.

The University also is concerned about conflicts of commitment.  As required under Section 025 of the Academic Personnel Manual (APM), all Berkeley Senate faculty members are required to complete annual reports concerning their recent compensated outside activities using the UC Outside Activity Tracking System (OATS). Additionally, they are required to obtain prior approval before engaging in compensated outside activities that have the potential to create conflicts of commitment.

Note:  It is important that this information in OATS be accurate and kept up-to-date. If a faculty member unintentionally fails to disclose all of their outside activities and commitments to a federal sponsor, the federal sponsor’s concerns may be assuaged if the information has been previously disclosed to the University.


Other/Current & Pending Support

The University is committed to maintaining and building successful partnerships with unrestricted domestic and foreign colleagues and institutions around the world and supports the free and open exchange of ideas between and among the U.S. and international participants.

It is UC policy not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, physical or mental disability, medical condition (cancer-related or genetic characteristics), ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, citizenship, or status as a covered veteran. UC institutions do not accept grant and contract awards with restrictions based on citizenship except when the purpose of the project is for workforce development (Contract & Grant Manual section 14-700).

To ensure that a collaboration with an external domestic or foreign entity conforms to the federal sponsor policy, PIs should always carefully read each federal sponsor’s guidance on what is required and when to report this information. Do not rely on what was provided in the past or what another sponsor requires.

To obtain this information PIs are advised to pay attention to federal proposal guidelines, the terms and conditions of federal awards received, policy updates from the federal agencies (announced via SPO News or posted on the SPO website), and to be prepared for changes in this area. Note: When in doubt, disclose.

PI Responsibilities

Remember PIs are responsible for ensuring that all information contained in the proposal, including other/current and pending support and foreign influence disclosures, is true and accurate for all key personnel that are required to disclose this information.

When the PI signs off on a proposal in Phoebe, the PI is certifying to the following statement for all of the project personnel who are required to report Other Support or Current and Pending Support named in the proposal:

I certify to the accuracy and completeness of all Other/Current and Pending Support documents contained in this proposal and that the support described from both domestic and international sources is in accordance with the application guidelines or the sponsor’s instructions.

This clearly indicates that it is the PI’s responsibility to ensure the accuracy of the Other/Current and Pending Support information disclosed by all project personnel that are required by the sponsor to report Other/Current and Pending Support information.

Special NIH Requirements

As of January 25, 2022, NIH will be requiring principal investigators and other senior/key personnel involved in the project to electronically sign a PDF Other Support Form to certify that the information on the form is accurate. NIH PIs can use this certification process to ensure that the senior/key personnel involved in the proposed project have provided accurate Other Support information. However, other federal sponsors have not yet adopted this certification step.

Other Federal Sponsors

Therefore, for all other federal sponsors, PIs should request that each individual required to disclose Other/Current and Pending Support (note that this currently differs across federal agencies) provide the following certification before the PI approves a proposal in Phoebe or submits the information to the sponsor.

I certify that I have read and understand the sponsor’s Other/Current and Pending Support disclosure requirements. The information I have disclosed about my support from both domestic and foreign sources meets the sponsor’s reporting requirements and is accurate, current, and complete. I understand that false representations may subject me to prosecution and liability.

Note: The PI should obtain and keep a record of these certifications in case the federal sponsor questions what has been reported during the life of the project. These records should be maintained for a period of three years from the date of submission of the final expenditure report or, for federal awards that are renewed quarterly or annually, from the date of the submission of the quarterly or annual financial report.

Guidance from Agencies

Below are links to summary pages for the major federal agencies that fund research activities at UC Berkeley and their specific guidance related to Foreign Influence and Other and Current and Pending Support reporting obligations.


Conflict of Interest

PDs/PIs applying for funding from sponsors that have COI requirements must ensure that all covered personnel involved in the project disclose outside financial interest(s) or obligation(s) that have the potential, whether real or perceived, to bias a research project or cause harm to human subjects participating in a research project.

California State Law requires disclosures from PIs and Co-PIs applying for funds from non-governmental agencies except those on the FPPC Exempt List.

NSF, PHS agencies (e.g., NIH), and other sponsors that have adopted NSF/PHS guidelines require disclosures from all individuals responsible for the design, conduct, or reporting of the funded research project.

The “triggers” of what and when to disclose vary across sponsors. See this overview of COI disclosure requirements for more information.


Export Control

PDs/PIs are responsible for determining when information, technologies, and commodities can be transmitted overseas to anyone, including U.S. citizens, or to a foreign national on U.S. soil.

Export control laws are implemented by both the Department of Commerce through its Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and the Department of State through its International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

Export regulations apply whether or not the recipient is funded by a grant, contract, or other agreement, and apply whether or not the EAR or ITAR are cited in the award document. If a researcher accepts export-controlled technology or information from a government agency or from industry, the researcher is subject to ITAR or EAR regulations.

PIs are advised to submit an Export Control Service Request Form to obtain guidance on sharing controlled technology with foreign persons overseas or in your lab, international research collaborations, traveling or shipping research materials overseas. Submission of this form will ensure that requests/questions are noted, time stamped, and tracked. For follow up questions after submitting the form, please contact ec-team@berkeley.edu.


Retroactive Disclosures

Mistakes will be made, and reportable foreign connections may be overlooked and not disclosed as required. When this occurs, PIs should take the following action:

As soon as possible following the submission of a proposal, JIT information, progress report (e.g., RPPR) or required disclosure form and even prior to closeout: Notify SPO if you failed to include a reportable foreign relationship or foreign component. SPO will guide you through the process of disclosing this information to the sponsor retroactively according to the sponsor’s requirements.


Reporting Federal Inquiries or Knowledge of Improper Foreign Influence

The UC Berkeley campus has a process for reporting: 1) federal agency communication regarding concerns about foreign influence in federally funded research; or, 2) campus knowledge of improper foreign influence.

Reporting Federal Inquiries or Knowledge of Improper Foreign Influence provides further information, a list of “triggering events,” and frequently asked questions. If you become aware of a “triggering event,” report it within 24 hours to the UC Berkeley Locally Designated Official.


Additional Resources

Sponsored Projects

Federal Disclosure Related to Sponsored Projects on the SPO website has guidance on the following federal agencies:

Conflict of Interest

The Conflict of Interest Committee website includes information on disclosure requirements from:

Conflict of Commitment

See Conflict of Commitment for guidance.

  • Category I – prior approval required and count toward day limit
    • Teaching or research at another university
    • Assuming a managerial position at a company
    • Acting as a salaried employee outside the University
  • Category II – disclosure required
    • Consulting
    • Providing a workshop for industry

Export Control

See Export Control for guidance.

  • Basic compliance strategy – operate within the fundamental research exclusion
    • No publication restrictions
    • No citizenship restrictions
  • Shipment of tangible items may still require a license.
  • Treasury sanctions and embargoes may apply to travel.
  • Consult with the campus Export Control Officer with any questions.

Other Resources

Campus Town Hall:

Foreign Influence and Sponsored Projects presentation slides: