Foreign Talent Recruitment Programs
Disclosure and transparency are paramount. Personnel wishing to participate in talent programs must follow Caltech's Conflict of Interest and Commitment processes, including disclosure of external relationships for review. Copies of foreign agreements can be uploaded to the Biosketch and Other Support (BSOS) system.
Researchers are encouraged to carefully review all agreements and thoroughly vet all arrangements to ensure that they are aware of any participation in a talent program and that they have disclosed their participation in a talent program. If a researcher is unsure about any terms, conditions, or expectations related to their engagement in an outside activity with a foreign government, institution, or entity, they should contact ResearchSecurity@caltech.edu, who can help identify problematic talent program terms and provide advice regarding the potential implications of talent program involvement for current and future research opportunities.
Many countries sponsor talent programs for legitimate purposes of attracting researchers in targeted fields, and many programs utilize legitimate means of attracting talent, including offering research fellowships and grants to incentivize researchers to relocate physically.
However, participation in some non-US government-sponsored talent recruitment programs, sometimes called talent programs, can involve risks that warrant consideration and mitigation. Congress, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other government organizations view certain aspects of talent programs as threats to the integrity and security of the national research enterprise.
Talent Program Definition
The Office of Science and Technology Policy, Joint Committee on the Research Environment of the National Science and Technology Council describes a foreign talent program as follows:
A foreign government-sponsored talent recruitment program is an effort directly or indirectly organized, managed, or funded by a foreign government, including state-owned enterprises, or a foreign institution to recruit science and technology professionals or students (regardless of citizenship or national origin, and whether having a full-time or part-time position).
Some foreign government-sponsored talent recruitment programs operate with the intent to import or otherwise acquire from abroad, through illicit as well as licit means, proprietary technology or software, unpublished data and methods, and intellectual property to further the military modernization goals and/or economic goals of a foreign government.
Many, but not all, programs aim to incentivize the targeted individual to relocate physically to the foreign state for the above purpose.
Some programs allow for or encourage continued employment at U.S. research facilities or receipt of Federal research funds while concurrently working at and/or receiving compensation from a foreign institution. Compensation could take many forms, including cash, research funding, complimentary foreign travel, honorific titles, career advancement opportunities, promised future compensation, or other types of remuneration or consideration, including in-kind compensation.
Federal Government Expectations
Disclosure and transparency are paramount. Personnel wishing to participate in talent programs must follow Caltech's Conflict of Interest and Commitment processes, including disclosure of external relationships for review. We can help identify problematic talent program terms and provide advice regarding the potential implications of talent program involvement for current and future research opportunities.
US government sponsors require disclosure of any participation in any talent program as an activity that must be disclosed in connection with federal research proposals and awards. Agencies seem to be converging on a single definition of a talent program consistent with the definition in NSPM-33, but there are still some variations. Researchers in doubt should err on the side of transparency and report their involvement in talent programs as foreign support, in their biosketches, or otherwise in accordance with specific agency instructions. Full details of agency disclosure requirements can be found on the Transparency in Research: Federal Agency Disclosure Requirements page. Un general, federal authorities have pursued administrative and legal enforcement action against researchers in recent years not for mere involvement in talent programs but rather for allegedly failing to disclose--or actively concealing--their participation.