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Research Policy and Compliance  /  International Collaboration

International Collaboration

Updated September 17, 2023

Research Compliance Newsletter Vol. 2

Presentation to the Faculty Board - March 2023

The Importance of and Benefits from International Collaboration

Caltech as an institution of higher learning is committed to a policy of openness regarding international collaborations. We allow full access to research activities for graduate students, postdocs, and staff of all nationalities.

Caltech derives significant benefit from foreign collaborations and such collaborations are in keeping with the Institute's mission. While concerns have been raised regarding such engagements, the consistent application of standards of openness, transparency, reciprocity, and integrity will make it possible to participate in such engagements while deriving the associated mutual benefits. The Institute should ensure that these important characteristics are fundamental components of any proposed international collaborations.

For more information, please read the Report of the faculty committee on international collaboration.


The U.S. government has raised several concerns about research security, specifically, theft of intellectual property, research materials, and unfair practices related to research results. This has led to investigations at a variety of research and educational institutions where the government has analyzed international collaborations for an unfair advantage, the potential for conflict of commitment, practices contrary to funding agency reporting requirements, and in rare cases, scientific misconduct.

What Do Researchers Need to Do?

The purpose of this website is to inform the Caltech community and our external partners regarding Caltech policies and procedures related to engaging with foreign partners.

The NSF, on behalf of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Research Security Subcommittee of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) posted a website of the model forms for use by senior personnel, as well as to develop proposed common disclosure forms for the Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending (Other) Support sections of an application for Federal research and development (R&D) grants or cooperative agreements.

The new webpage developed for this purpose includes draft common instructions for the Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending (Other) Support, a spreadsheet summarizing the data elements for each of these, and a spreadsheet providing the Subcommittee's responses on the comments received during prior call for comment from August 2022. The new disclosure requirements were posted in the Federal Register on August 7, 2023, and comments are due on September 11, 2023. Please contact Grace Fisher-Adams or David Mayo with any comments.

DOD issues guidance to its funding components for Countering Unwanted Foreign Influence in Department-Funded Research at Institutions of Higher Education.

The new directive to DOD departments describes the steps each should take in developing review mechanisms to identify and mitigate potential unwanted foreign influence in DOD-funded fundamental research projects. DOD Departments are directed to develop their own risk-based research security review procedures and make those procedures public. Risk-management strategies may include requiring researchers to complete additional training, more frequent reporting of research results, more detailed information on external relationships, or the replacement or resignation of a researcher based on relationships with countries of concern.

Financial Interests and Commitments: It is Financial Interest and Commitment Disclosure time!

President Rosenbaum kicked off the annual disclosure period with his letter dated 6/6/2022. Please log into the Disclosure of Financial Interests and Commitments (DFIC) system ( and make sure all such appointments or employment are disclosed. Remember, if you have a foreign affiliation- an appointment, commitment, or financial interest, you should attach a copy of the associated agreement to the Entity in your disclosure. Any questions should be sent to

Sponsor Disclosures: Please review the latest sponsor requirements, not only for your financial interests and commitments, but also for your current and pending support, biosketch and foreign components:

Latest NSF Disclosure Chart – 1/23 and FAQ

Latest NIH Disclosure Chart – 6/22 and FAQ

Latest DOE guidance FCOI 1/22 and – Current and Pending Support 6/22

Research Security: Request for Information; NSPM-33 Research Security Programs Standard Requirement was issued on March 6, 2023. Caltech working groups are considering these recommendations and we are awaiting further guidance from our federal sponsors regarding the next steps.

Caltech recommends the CITI training modules: Undue Foreign Influence: Risks and Mitigations and Export Compliance Awareness Training. Access the training through under Self Service > Research Ethics Education (CITI).

Conflicts of Interest. All investigators who receive funding from the Public Health Services, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), must take conflict of interest training at least once every 4 years. Training is strongly encouraged for all other Caltech researchers. Access the training through under Self Service > Research Ethics Education (CITI).

Watch the Faculty Town Hall on Transparency in Foreign Collaboration (Caltech credentials required for registration. Duration: 90 minutes)

Federal funding agency-specific requirements:

The Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) assists you in the review and submission of proposals, and the negotiation, and acceptance of awards, for research, training, and other sponsored programs. OSR can help you with questions about the forms and about agency requirements.

It is essential to disclose all forms of research support, especially from foreign sources (including gifts). When there is a question about a possible conflict of interest or a conflict of commitment, a decision to err on the side of disclosure will protect both the investigator and the Institute. More information may be found at Conflicts of Interest.

  • Everyone must disclose covered outside activities and financial interests:
    • at least annually, and
    • within 30 days of engaging in any new activities or acquire any new financial interests which could be perceived as being a conflict
    • PHS-funded investigators must report travel paid or reimbursed by a third party with 30 days of completing the trip

Use Disclosure of Financial Interests and Commitments through for all disclosures.

Note that changes in federal agency requirements mean Investigators may need to report outside activities to sponsors, as well. See agency-specific requirements for details.

Send questions to

As part of an international collaboration or other research-related or professional activity, you may be asked to sign an agreement that includes provisions pertaining to intellectual property (IP), possibly including, but not limited to, rights in inventions, patents, software, or copyright. Such IP terms should be reviewed by Caltech's Office of Technology Transfer and Corporate Partnerships (OTTCP) and may need to be renegotiated to be compatible with your IP obligations to Caltech, whether the agreement is with a domestic or foreign entity.

Caltech's fundamental research "safe harbor" generally applies only to work at or for Caltech in the U.S. These protections do not always apply when activities cross international borders. Researchers should request a review of their activities for EAR or ITAR compliance when they plan research for Caltech outside the U.S. or the research involves export-controlled technology transfers to foreign persons in the U.S. (deemed exports).

Export Control regulations are likely to apply to the following activities:

  • Use of export-controlled information or items in your collaboration with foreign parties
  • Use of Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) or restricted information
  • International collaborations that include JPL involvement
  • Foreign Talent Program engagements
  • Traveling internationally and attending conferences
  • Traveling to sensitive, embargoed or sanctioned countries
  • Participating in international collaborations
  • Use of proprietary data subject to a confidentiality or nondisclosure agreement
  • Hosting international visitors, or
  • Shipping items (software, hardware or technical data) internationally

Researchers may be held personally liable for violating export control laws. The Export Compliance Office will assist you with any questions regarding export control requirements in a particular country or licensing requirements for specific activities.

Please visit the Export Compliance Office and International Travel page for additional information and guidance.

If you are exporting or importing items as part of your research, please visit the Export Compliance Office for requirements in a particular country or licensing requirements for specific activities and the Environment Health and Safety Office or Research Compliance for shipping, labeling, and receiving biological, hazardous, or radioactive materials.

Please contact the OTTCP Material Transfer Agreement team at for assistance with MTAs, which may be required to provide materials to, or receive materials from, your collaborators.

Section 889 of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act prohibits government contractors from providing the federal government with telecommunications or video surveillance equipment, systems, or services (or an essential component thereof) produced or provided by five Chinese companies and their subsidiaries and affiliates. Separately, Section 889 prohibits government contractors from using these prohibited items or services, regardless of whether they are used in the performance of work under a federal contract.

Visit Export Compliance's NDAA Section 889 page for more details.

The Export Compliance International Travel page provides information to travelers about special restrictions when traveling to certain foreign destinations, information about exporting items including hand-carried items. You may send a direct email to for assistance. See also the Travel Advisory for International Scholars.

If your travel is paid for or reimbursed by an outside entity and you are involved in the design, conduct, and reporting of Public Health Service (PHS)/NIH-funded research, it is necessary to report this in the Disclosure of Financial Interests and Commitments.

Disclosure is required when the aggregate value of sponsored or reimbursed travel exceeds an estimated $5,000 for an entity in the previous 12 months. The disclosure of each trip should be submitted as it occurs regardless of the estimated value. (i.e. submit all trips from the last 30 days so as to not need to track value). The aggregate value includes:

  • Travel for which the individual is reimbursed by an outside entity
  • Travel that is paid for on the individual's behalf by an outside entity
  • Any registration fees, accommodations, transportation costs, etc.

Concerns by the federal government about the potential loss of intellectual property or inappropriate foreign influence on federally-funded research has led agencies to revise their requirements to achieve greater transparency into investigators' outside activities, including how foreign and domestic researchers are collaborating on federal projects, whether or not they are paid from an award. See agency-specific requirements for details.

Researchers should adhere to the following:

  • Disclose all research collaborations to federal sponsors. In some cases, sponsors require prior approval before engaging in international collaborations directly related to sponsored awards.
  • Disclose all outside research activities, appointments, affiliations, and positions to federal sponsors and Caltech through the Disclosure of Financial Interests and Commitments.
  • Secure any export-controlled information: Visit Safeguarding Export Controlled Data and Safeguarding Export-Controlled Documents, Data & Items
  • Use SciENcv Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae when possible, to reduce administrative burden. SciENcv is a researcher profile system for all individuals who apply for, receive or are associated with federally-funded awards.
  • Use ORCiD Open Researcher and Contributor ID when possible to attribute publications with the correct researcher. ORCiD is a unique, persistent identifier provided free of charge to researchers. More information may be found at:
  • Be aware of sponsor restrictions on access to fundamental research
    • Awards that involve controlled information (e.g., classified information or Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI)) cannot be accepted unless an exception is approved.
    • Awards that include terms requiring approval or excessive delays in publications, or that require approval for the participation of foreign nationals in the project, may delay the start of a project while the Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) negotiates acceptable terms.

Reports and other information on research security:

The Vice Provost for Research has commissioned a working group to review processes and develop recommendations for addressing issues and risks related to hosting visitors on campus. We urge researchers to consult with the following offices before bringing non-US visitors to campus:

More information about updated procedures will be posted here when it becomes available.

The International Offices also offers travel advice for visitors (serving both campus and JPL international scholars):

Federal sponsors require detailed information about research collaborations. Review the agency-specific information for details.

Significant collaborations on NIH-funded projects with non-US entities may require prior approval from the NIH. See the foreign component information under the NIH page.

Also, note the export controls regulations and the shipping guidance above when sending materials or data across the border.

Thank you to Michelle Christy for assistance with this site.