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. This process is based on the UC Office of the President Office systemwide Escalation Protocols for Research Related Matters FAQs available from UCOP Ethics, Compliance and Audit Services, and is meant to ensure that federal agency inquiries and potential issues are appropriately tracked, escalated, and investigated.

Examples of Inquiry Topics

Federal inquiries involving foreign entities’ involvement in research often request the campuses to investigate allegations of non-compliance related to federal grants, contracts, or awards, such as non-disclosure of foreign entity financial or non-financial support in grant applications. In addition, federal agencies have publicly discussed and may inquire in the future about numerous other topics regarding the involvement of foreign entities in research matters that may or may not involve non-compliance, such as:

  • Diversion of intellectual property from federally funded research to foreign entities;
  • Recruitment or sponsorship of students of foreign entities to work in research partnerships with campuses;
  • Compliance with reporting requirements in connection with receipt of certain gifts and contracts from foreign sources (which may include foreign university or other foreign entity support for research);
  • Use of federal grant funds in connection with research partnerships between universities and foreign entities; or
  • Physical and cybersecurity threats that may be posed by foreign entities gaining unauthorized access to protected or sensitive information in research computing systems or research laboratories.

Campus Process for Reporting

If you become aware of a “triggering event” as defined below, report it within 24 hours to the UC Berkeley Locally Designated Official (LDO).

Triggering Events

A “triggering event” shall include the following:

  1. Any communication from a federal agency regarding federally funded research grants, contracts or awards in which the federal agency expresses concern about  a foreign entity’s involvement in the research; or
  2. Any campus’ knowledge of any violation of any federal agency policy or federal law regarding federally funded research grants, contracts or awards in which the campus has a concern regarding a foreign entity’s involvement in the research.

A “triggering event” must involve a concern regarding a foreign entity’s involvement. Thus, for example, a “triggering event” shall not include a communication or violation related to federally funded research that (a) involves only domestic entities or individuals, or (b) involves a foreign entity, but there has been no concern expressed by the agency or campus about the foreign entity’s involvement.

A “communication” shall include, but not be limited, to: (a) any subpoena,  civil investigative demand or other document request directed at the UC or any UC faculty or staff; (b) any request for interviews with any UC faculty or staff; (c) any “cease and desist” letter from an agency; and (d) any agency request for a review of such issues and further information on compliance/non-compliance and corrective actions.

Such foreign entities include but are not limited to foreign governmental entities, foreign universities, foreign private entities or any joint ventures, affiliations or combinations between such entities, any domestic subsidiaries, or affiliates of foreign  entities,  any faculty, student, employee, or contractor of a foreign entity, or any agent acting on behalf of a foreign entity.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do ALL communications from federal agencies that express concern about a foreign entity’s involvement in federally funded research constitute “triggering events” under Paragraph #1 above?

NO. Only communications that meet ALL of the following criteria are considered reportable “triggering events” under Paragraph #1 above:

  1. the communication is in writing (e.g., an email or a letter); and
  2. the communication requests a written response, and
  3. the communication is from either:
    1. an official in the agency leadership such as a director, deputy director, or assistant director, or
    2. an investigative agent or attorney such as a special agent from a federal agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).
  4. the communication expresses concern about a foreign entity’s involvement in research funded by a federal grant, contract, or other award.

Thus, communications (regardless of format) from non-leadership or non-investigative agency staff such as Program Officers or Grants Management Officials would not be considered “triggering events” under Paragraph #1 above. They would not be required to be entered into the Navex system as described in the escalation protocol set out in the March 28th Escalation Protocol letter (see Escalation Protocols for Research Related Matters FAQs).

2. What is the definition of “knowledge”? Knowledge shall mean  an allegation  of a violation of a federal policy or law is sufficiently serious, credible, and specific so that potential reliable evidence may be identified.

To be a reportable “triggering event” under Paragraph #2 above, “knowledge” must meet all of the following criteria:

  1. it concerns an allegation of a violation of federal policy or law regarding federally funded research grants, contracts, or other awards, where the alleged violation is regarding a foreign entity’s involvement in the research, a concern about a researcher’s affiliations with, or receipt of support from a foreign entity.
  2. that the allegation is sufficiently serious, credible and specific so that potential reliable evidence may be identified.

“Knowledge” shall not include rumor, gossip or other unreliable evidence.

3. How would a campus acquire knowledge of a violation under triggering event #2? The second type of triggering event  could arise  through voluntary after-the-fact disclosure by a PI or key personnel, during the course of another University process, routine due diligence, unrelated investigation, inquiry, or internal audit.

Examples of issues found through voluntary disclosures, routine due  diligence, during the course of another University process, unrelated investigation, or inquiry that may give rise to “knowledge” reportable as a “triggering  event” under Item  #2 above include:

  1. Voluntary PI or key  personnel after-the-fact disclosures to, for  example, the LDO. Such actions should be encouraged by campuses as a way to signal to the individual, campus community, and to federal personnel and agencies UC’s commitment to responsible reporting. The intent in tracking a voluntary disclosure is for UC to have an awareness of a disclosure that may  trigger additional federal funding agency inquiries.
  2. In a Progress Report, or internal UC reporting
  3. Routine Due Diligence: A review of a previously approved APM 025 or APM 671 Category 1 activity, such as the conduct of research or teaching at a foreign institution, or acceptance of a position at a foreign institution that  requests prior approval, that uncovers a failure to disclose other support to a federal funding agency
  4. A whistleblower complaint or a concern entered into the whistleblower hotline, or media inquiry or publication request
  5. A retrospective review conducted under PHS Conflict of Interest policy when the financial conflict of interest involves a foreign entity
  6. An issue that was brought to the attention of appropriate campus administrators as a result of an Internal Audit.

4. What are the responsibilities of the LDO in relation to any “triggering event”?

The LDO is responsible for overall coordination, oversight of the investigation and coordination with campus subject matter experts during the investigation and in preparation of the response. The LDO is also responsible for reporting triggering events into Navex. The LDO’s oversight is necessary considering the LDO’s expertise in non- research misconduct investigations, familiarity with investigative tools and techniques, consistency in approach across the system as with other investigations, and experience in dealing with enforcement units of agencies.

5. Scope of the matters included under this Escalation Protocol

The scope of the Protocol includes concerns  related  to research  grants  or gifts, contracts or other  awards, alleged violations  regarding  a foreign entity’s involvement in the research, a concern about a researcher’s affiliations with, or receipt of support from a foreign entity (as discussed above).

The scope of the Escalation Protocol does not include Research Misconduct investigations, which are handled by the campus designated Research Integrity Officer. A federal-wide definition of Research Misconduct is included in the policy issued by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and was adopted by all federal agencies including NIH and NSF. It defines Research Misconduct as:

  1. Research misconduct means fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.
  2. Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
  3. Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.
  4. Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit. xx Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion.

Return to the main Other Support and Foreign Influences page.