Participation in foreign talent recruitment programs (FTRPs) can involve risks that warrant careful consideration, mitigation, and–in some cases–complete avoidance. Congress, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other government organizations view aspects of certain FTRPs as threats to the integrity and security of the national research enterprise. The CHIPS and Science Act (the C&S Act) directs federal research sponsors to maintain policies that–
- require covered individuals to disclose all participation in FTRPs, and
- prohibit recipients of federal support from participating in any malign FTRPs (MFTRPs).
The National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, and other agencies are rolling these policies out in 2023 and 2024. (A notable exception is the Department of Energy, which has tightly restricted talent program participation since 2019 with DoE Order 486.1A (updated 2020)).
- Foreign Talent Recruitment Program (FTRP) Definition
- Malign Foreign Talent Recruitment Program (MFTRP) Definition
- Required Disclosures to Sponsors of Participation in FTRPs
- Prohibition on Participation in MFTRPs
- Additional University Expectations and Local Disclosures
- Representative List of Non-US Talent Programs
- Questions and Additional Resources
Foreign Talent Recruitment Program (FTRP) Definition
The C&S Act does not include a definition of an FTRP, instead directing the White House Office for Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to develop one. This definition will likely resemble that currently in OSTP’s National Security Presidential Memorandum-33 implementation guidance:
an effort organized, managed, or funded by a foreign government, or a foreign government instrumentality or entity, to recruit science and technology professionals or students (regardless of citizenship or national origin, or whether having a part-time or full-time position).
Some activities that might constitute an FTRP include an agreement to assist with the establishment or management of a new laboratory abroad without violating U.S. law or policy, being invited to apply for a bona fide part-time appointment appropriately disclosed to University and federal officials, or a research arrangement that encourages publication in a specific foreign country’s academic journals.
Malign Foreign Talent Recruitment Program (MFTRP) Definition
The C&S Act provides a definition of MFTRP–essentially a talent program requiring one or more problematic actions and having problematic sponsorship. A detailed approach to the definition is available here.
The Department of Defense lists referenced in the last part of the MFTRP definition are available here.
Required Disclosure to Sponsors of Participation in FTRPs
The C&S Act requires OSTP and federal research agencies to implement policies requiring all PIs and senior/key personnel to disclose FTRP participation in the appropriate federal forms (Current and Pending/Other Support, Biosketches, etc.). In practice, this means that foreign appointments are required to be included in Biosketches, and any form of compensation, in-kind or funded research support, or resource provided by the foreign entity must be included in the Current and Pending/Other Support form. Many agencies already have this requirement, or something very similar, so the impact on researchers should be minimal, provided that they are already aware of and complying with the requirements. It is critical that personnel provide complete and accurate information about involvement in any FTRPs, per agency rules.
Prohibition on Participation in MFTRPs
The C&S Act directs each federal research agency to establish a policy that disqualifies PIs and senior/key personnel from receiving federal support if they are participating in a MFTRP. Soon, grant and contract proposals will need to include individual certifications that covered personnel are not involved in MFTRPs, as well as institutional certifications that covered personnel have been made aware of the MFTRP prohibition.
Additional University Expectations and Local Disclosures
Disclosure and transparency are paramount not only to federal agencies, but also to the University, via the University’s Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment processes. Conflict of Interest Program staff can assist you by reviewing proposed agreements with foreign universities, governmental entities, and businesses in order to identify potentially problematic terms, and will coordinate with other University offices as needed to protect you and the University.
Representative List of Foreign Talent Programs
See a representative list of Non-Us Talent Programs. The list is not exhaustive as it is not feasible to identify all foreign talent programs. If a program or contract includes the specific conditions outlined above, it qualifies as an FTRP or a MFTRP as applicable and should be approached accordingly.
Questions About Foreign Talent Programs
Please contact Export Controls with specific questions about talent programs, relevant University policies, and related federal government rules and expectations.
- Foreign Talent Recruitment Programs: What Investigators Need to Know, SPA, July 2023.
- Countering Unwanted Foreign Influence in Department-Funded Research at Institutions of Higher Education, Department of Defense, June 2023.
- Recommended Practices for Strengthening the Security and Integrity of America’s Science and Technology Research Enterprise, Joint Committee on the Research Environment, National Science and Technology Council, January 2021.
- Chinese Talent Program Tracker, Center for Security and Emerging Technology, Georgetown University, November 2020.
- Foreign Government-Sponsored Talent Recruitment Plans, such as China’s Talent Plans, Incentivize Economic Espionage and Theft of Trade Secrets, Federal Bureau of Investigation, July 2020.
- Threats to the U.S. Research Enterprise: China’s Talent Recruitment Plans, US Senate, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, November 2019.