Foreign Influence in Federally Sponsored Research – Guidance
What is Foreign Influence?
Government agencies have identified foreign interests and activities that require disclosure to federal agencies when proposing to or participating in federally sponsored research. The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) provided guidance regarding government-wide foreign interest and activity disclosure requirements in accordance with National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) 33: Presidential Memorandum on United States Government-Supported Research and National Security.
Virginia Tech remains committed to meeting regulatory compliance in all areas of education and research activities so that stakeholders are responsible stewards of public and private funding. Federal sponsors issue requirements for researchers to disclose their foreign and domestic affiliations, interests, and activities; therefore, researchers must promptly disclose to federal sponsors all relevant activities and information that bear on potential conflicts of interest and commitment. Disclosure remains part of the broader set of researchers’ responsibilities to ensure objectivity, honesty, transparency, fairness, accountability, and stewardship.
- Stanford University Agrees to Pay $1.9 Million to Resolve Allegations That it Failed to Disclose Foreign Research Support in Federal Grant Proposals
- Department of Defense Strengthening Efforts to Counter Unwanted Foreign Influence on DOD-Funded Research at Institutions of Higher Education
- DoD Issues Policy Memorandum/ Guidance For Risk-Based Security Reviews of Fundamental Research
- NSF Suspends 18 Awards, Receives Repayments Related to Foreign Ties, Research Misconduct
- Former Harvard University Professor Sentenced for Lying About His Affiliation with Wuhan University of Technology; China’s Thousand Talents Program; and Filing False Tax Returns
- House Republicans press Education Department on colleges’ foreign gift reporting requirements, Letter to Secretary Cardona
- New JASON Report: Research Program on Research Security
- Probation Not Prison for Researcher in China Initiative Case
- NSF Enhancements to the NSF Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending (other) Support Fillable PDF Form
- GAO: Export Controls:Enforcement Agencies Should Better Leverage Information to Target Efforts Involving U.S. Universities
- DoE issues FAL 2022-04 Department of Energy Current and Pending Support
Faculty and Staff Foreign Interest Disclosure Responsibilities
What, How, and When to Disclose to Virginia Tech
Employees must disclose additional work commitments and financial interests in accordance with Virginia Tech’s Individual Conflicts of Interest and Commitment Policy (No. 13010). Foreign interests and participation in foreign talent and government recruitment programs should be disclosed in the university's Disclosure and Management System. Please visit the Disclosure Guidelines & Requirements page for more information. Contact the Virginia Tech Research Conflict of Interest (RCOI) Program at COI@vt.edu if you have questions regarding disclosure requirements under this policy.
Note that disclosing your interests in the Disclosure and Management System does not alleviate your obligation to notify OSP of any disclosure requirements to individual sponsors. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org regarding questions on individual grant or contract disclosure requirements.
On December 21, 2021, Harvard Professor Dr. Charles Lieber was found guilty of concealing his affiliation with the Wuhan University of Technology and his participation in China’s Thousand Talents Program. The former Chair of Harvard University’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department was convicted by a federal jury in connection with lying to federal authorities about his affiliation with the People’s Republic of China’s Thousand Talents Program and the Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) in Wuhan, China, as well as failing to report income he received from WUT. Dr. Lieber, 64, was sentenced to time served (two days) in prison; two years of supervised release with six months of home confinement; a fine of $50,000; and $33,600 in restitution to the IRS.
The University of Washington has agreed to pay more than $800,000 to settle Justice Department allegations that a professor submntted false documentation relating to a highly competitive grant. The grant documents, submitted to NSF by Mehmet Sarikaya, a professor in the university's Materials Science and Engineering Department, misrepresented the involvement of two researchers who in reality were not involved in the work.
Dr. Song Guo Zheng, an rheumatology professor and researcher at The Ohio State University, was sentenced to 37 months in prison for making false statements to federal authorities as part of an immunology research fraud scheme. Dr. Zheng was also ordered to pay more than $3.4 million in restitution to NIH and approximately $413,000 to The Ohio State University.
Dr. Zheng admitted that he lied on applications in order to use approximately $4.1 million in grants from NIH to develop China's expertise in the areas of rheumatology and immunology. He concealed his participation in Chinese government talent recruitment programs, including the Chinese government's Thousand Talent program, and hiding his affiliations with at least five research institutions in China.
On April 21, 2021, Dr. Mingqing Xiao, a mathematics professor and researcher at Southern University of Illinois-Carbondale (SIUC) was charged with two counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements. Dr. Xiao is accused of fradulently obtaining $151,099 of federal grant money from NSF by concealing support he was receiving from the Chinese government, and Shenzhen University, a Chinese university. On May 4, 2022, Dr. Xaio was found guilty of tax charges but not grant fraud.
On April 20, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that Yu Zhou and his wife and co-conspirator Li Chen, pled guilty to charges of conspiring to steal at least five trade secrets related to exosome research from Nationwide Children's Hospital Research Institute (NCHRI). Chen was sentenced in February o 30 months in prison for her role in the scheme.
According to court documents, Zhou and Chen worked at separate medical research labs at NCHRI for ten years. Zhou and Chen conspired to steal and monetize one of the trade secrets by creating and selling exosome "isolation kits". They started a company in China to sell the kits.
As part of their convictions, the couple will forfeit approximately $1.45 million, 500.000 shares in common stock of Avalon GlobaCare Corporation, and 400 shares of common stock of GenExosome Technologies Inc. They were also ordered to pay $2.6 million in restitution.
On March 18, 2021, Gee-Kung Chang, a Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) professor, was charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and wire fraud. According to the charges, Dr. Chang and Jainjun Yu, then a research director at ZTE USA- a subsidiary of ZTE Corporation, a partially state-owned Chinese telecommunications and information technology company- in Morristown, New Jersey, allegedly conspired together to bring Chinese nationals to the United States to conduct research at the company.
To facilitate the entry of the Chinese nationals into the United States, Chang allegedly abused his position as a professor at Georgia Tech, an institution that was a designated exchange sponsor for the Department of State's J-1 Visa program, to arrange for Chinese nationals to fraudulantly obtain and maintain J-1 Visas. The indictment alleges that the Chinese nationals indicated that they would be working with Chang at Georgia Tech, however, they actually traveled to and resided in New Jersey, working with Yu at ZTE USA.
On February 18, 2021, the Justice Department announced that "a federal grand jury issued a superseding indictment charging Chen Song, a Stanford University visiting researcher, with visa fraud, obstruction of justice, destruction of documents, and false statements in connection with a scheme to conceal and lie about her status as a member of the People's Republic of China's military forces while in the United States while in the United States".
The Department of Justice reached a $5.5 million settlement with Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) to resolve allegations of undisclosed Chinese grants to two researchers. The settlement resolves certain factual misrepresentations VARI made to NIH with deliberate ignorance or reckless disregard for the truth regarding the Chinese grants.
The United States dropped charges against an MIT professor, Dr. Gang Chen. Dr. Chen was accused of failing to disclose contracts, appointments, and awards from various entities in the People's Republic of China to the U.S. Department of Energy.
On April 7th, 2022, a former University of Kansas (KU) professor was convicted by a federal jury on three counts of wire fraud and one count of false statements after he deliberately concealed that he was also employed by a government-affiliated university in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), while working on U.S. government funded research at KU. Dr. Tao, was accused of failing to disclose an employment contract with Fuzhou University. He continued to receive federal research dollars without disclosing this relationship and certifying that he had no conflict of interest or commitment. The federal district court judge has ordered two years of probation rather than a prison sentence for the former chemical engineering professor.
While attempting to leave the United States, UVA professor Dr. Haizhou Hu was arrested and charged with accessing a computer without authorization, or exceeding authorization to obtain information from a protected computer and theft of trade secrets. Hu allegedly unlawfully possessed bio-inspired research simulation software code that he was not authorized to possess, and which represented the result of years of research and resources in its development by members of the UVA academic community.
As reported in the Wall Street Journal September 23, 2020, charges against Dr. Hu were dropped.
Texas A&M professor Dr. Zhengdong Cheng working on U.S. space projects allegedly hid affiliations with two Chinese state-owned academic and commercial institutions been charged with conspiracy, making false statements and wire fraud.
"Professor Cheng allegedly made false statements to his university and to NASA regarding his affiliations with the Chinese goverment."
In additon to the funds, Cheng personally benefited from his affiliation with TAMU and NASA with increased access to unique NASA resources , such as the International Space Station. This access allegedly allowed Cheng to further his standing in China at Guandong University of Technology and other universities. The charges further allege he held senior research positions there unknown to TAMU and NASA and was able to serve in the People's Republic of China Talents program.
On January 21, 2022, a University of Arkansas professor, Dr. Simon Saw-Teong Ang, of Fayetteville, Arkansas, pled guilty of one count of making false statements to the FBI about his status as an inventor. All other charges were dropped. Dr. Chen was arrested on Friday, May 8, 2020, on charges related to Wire Fraud. The complaint charges that Ang had close ties with the Chinese government and Chinese companies, and failed to disclose those ties when required to do so in order to receive grant money from NASA. These materially false representations to NASA and the University of Arkansas resulted in numerous wires to be sent and received that facilitated Ang’s scheme to defraud.”
On May 8, 2020, Dr. Xiao-Jiang Li of Atlanta, Georgia, pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with filing a false tax return and has been sentenced by a U.S. District Judge and ordered to repay over $35,000 to the Internal Revenue Service. Dr. Li, a former Emory University professor and Chinese Thousand Talents Program participant, worked overseas at Chinese Universities and did not report any of his foreign income on his federal tax returns.
Dr. James Patrick Lewis, of Fairview, West Virginia, has admitted to a fraud charge involving West Virginia University, the Department of Justice announced. In July 2017, Lewis, a tenured physics professor at West Virginia University, entered into a contract of employment with the People’s Republic of China through its “Global Experts 1000 Talents Plan.
“Lewis defrauded a public university into giving him leave, so that he could satisfy his competing obligations to a Chinese institution, which he hid from the school,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.
Dr. Anming Hu, an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) was arrested February 27, 2020 on a federal indictment and charged with three counts of wire fraud and three counts of making false statements.
“Hu allegedly committed fraud by hiding his relationship with a Chinese university while receiving funding from NASA,”
Dr. Hu was accused of failing to disclose an affiliation with Beijing University of Technology. Dr. Hu’s false representations and omissions to UTK about his affiliation with BJUT caused UTK to falsely certify to NASA that UTK was in compliance with this federal law.
The case was dismissed as a mistrial in June 2021. In August 2021, prosecutors announced they would seek a retrial. On September 9, 2021, the presiding judge dismissed the case summarily.
- 10/2/2023 Stanford University Agrees to Pay $1.9 Million to Resolve Allegations That it Failed to Disclose Foreign Research Support in Federal Grant Proposals
- 6/30/2023 DoD Boosts Efforts to Fight Foreign Influence on Higher Ed R&D
- 6/23/2023 NSF Suspends 18 Awards, Receives Repayments Related to Foreign Ties, Research Misconduct (JDSUPRA)
- 4/26/2023 Former Harvard University Professor Sentenced for Lying About His Affiliation with Wuhan University of Technology; China’s Thousand Talents Program; and Filing False Tax Returns
- 4/05/2023 House Republicans press Education Department on colleges’ foreign gift reporting requirements, Letter to Education Secretary Cardona
- 01/20/2023 Probation Not Prison For Researcher in China Initiative Case
- 01/18/2023 Dear Colleagues Letter: Revised NSF Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending (Other) Support Formats - Now Available in SciENcv and on the NSF Website
- 09/01/2022 NSTC Research Security Subcommittee NSPM-33 Implementation Guidance Disclosure Requirements & Standardization
- 06/14/2022 GAO: Export Controls:Enforcement Agencies Should Better Leverage Information to Target Efforts Involving U.S. Universities
- 06/01/2022 DoE issues FAL 2022-04 Department of Energy Current and Pending Support Disclosures Financial Assistance Letter
- 05/04/2022 Southern Illinois University-Carbondale Professor found guilty of tax charges but not grant fraud
- 04/14/2022 Why a judge might overturn a guilty verdict against a U.S. scientist for hiding China ties
- 04/07/2022 Jury Convicts University of Kansas Researcher for Hiding Ties to Chinese Government
- 01/21/2022 U.S. Accepts Plea by Arkansas Scientist Charged in Controversial China Initiative
- 01/20/2022 Prosecutors Drop China Initiative Case Against MIT's Gang Chen
- 01/11/2022 OSTP Releases Guidance for NSPM-33, Long Awaited Research Security Roadmap
- 12/21/2021 Harvard University Professor Convicted of Making False Statements and Tax Offences
- 10/13/2021 University of Washington settles DOJ claims of grant fraud (Associated Press)
- 10/05/2021 GAO: Federal Research: Agency Action Needed to Address Foreign Influence
- 09/07/2021 Judge Acquits Nanotechnologist as Pressure Mounts on DoJ China Initiative
- 09/01/2021 NSF Revises Foreign Activity Disclosure Table: NSF Pre-award and Post-award Disclosures Relating to Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support
- 08/27/2021 First Jail Term for Undisclosed Foreign Support Appealed: NIH's Lauer Laments 'Tragic' OSU Case
- 08/24/2021-Kansas Professor says FBI misled court in alleging hidden ties to Chinese government recruitment program
- 08/02/2021-Prosecutors to Retry Case Amid China Initiative Concerns
- 07/30/2021-Foreign Interference in National Institutes of Health Funding and Grant Making Processes: A Summary of Findings from 2016 to 2021
- 07/26/2021-China Initiative Cases Dismissed
- 06/13/2021- Trial Reveals Federal Agents Falsely Accused A University of Tennessee Professor Born in China of Spying (Knox News)
- 05/14/2021- University Researcher Sentenced to Prison for Lying on Grant Applications to Develop Scientific Expertise for China
- 04/21/2021-Mathematics Professor and University Researcher Indicted for Grant Fraud
- 04/20/2021-Hospital Researcher sentenced to Prison for Conspiring to Steal Trade Secrets to China
- 03/24/2021- Georgia Institute of Technology professor charged with Visa and wire fraud
- 02/19/2021- Federal Charges Against Stanford University Researcher Expanded
- 01/14/2021- MIT Professor Arrested and Charged with Grant Frand
- 09/23/2020- US Drops Charges Against Scientist at UVA
- 08/28/2020- University of Virginia Researcher Charged with Theft of Trade Secrets and Computer Intrusion
- 08/24/2020-Texas A&M University Professor and NASA Researcher Arrested on Charges Related to China's Talents Program
- 8/10/2020- Department of Education Records Request Stemming from Section 117 Reporting- Stanford University
- 8/10/2020-Department of Education Records Request Stemming from Section 117 Reporting-Fordham University
- 7/13/2020-OSTP June 2020 Presentation: Enhancing the Security and Integrity of America's Research Enterprise
- 5/12/2020-Fmr Emory Professor and Chinese “Thousand Talents” Participant Convicted, Sentenced for Filing a False Tax Return
- 5/8/2020- University of Arkansas Professor Arrested for Wire Fraud
- 3/10/2020-Former West Virginia University Professor Pleads Guilty to Fraud That Enabled Him to Participate in the People’s Republic of China’s “Thousand Talents Plan"
- 2/27/2020 - “ Researcher at University of Tennessee Arrested for Wire Fraud and Making False Statements about Affiliation with Chinese University"
- 1/28/2020 -“ Harvard University Professor and Two Chinese Nationals Charged in Three Separate China Related Cases”
- 12/11/2019 - Council on Government Relations (COGR) Memo: NIH Other Support Guidance
- 12/11/2019 - JASON report on Fundamental Research Security
- 8/21/2019-University of Kansas Researcher Indicted for Fraud for Failing to Disclose Conflict of Interest with Chinese University