The U.S. Government is increasingly concerned about threats to the security and integrity of America’s academic research enterprise, including:
- Improper foreign influence in federally-funded research
- Researchers’ failure to disclose their foreign affiliations, Conflicts of
- Interest and Conflicts of Commitment, to federal funding agencies and their U.S. employers
- Intellectual property theft
- Economic and academic espionage
- Disclosure/diversion of confidential grant application information
- Grant fraud
In January 2021, the U.S. National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) issued a report, Recommended Practices for Strengthening the Security and Integrity of America’s Science and Technology Research Enterprise. The NSTC report stated, in pertinent part: “Behaviors that threaten the integrity of the research enterprise often also pose risks to the security of the research enterprise, which we term research security…. Therefore, research security and the integrity of the research enterprise are inexorably linked.”
Boston College recognizes that international academic collaborations are an essential part of the research community and critical to scientific advancement. However, it is important that faculty and staff engaging in international partnerships are aware of their reporting obligations and the concerns associated with research security, including improper foreign influence. Researchers should be completely transparent about their foreign relationships and activities and fully comply with all reporting requirements established by Boston College policy and the sponsors of federally-funded research.
The Office of Research Security, Integrity and Compliance can provide support and assistance with any of the following issues as they relate to research security:
- International Collaborations
- International Travel
- International Research
- Hosting Foreign National Visitors on Campus
- Foreign Talent Plans
- Disclosure of Foreign Conflicts of Interest
- Disclosure of Foreign Conflicts of Commitment
Since 2019, U.S. Government agencies have substantially increased their investigative focus on U.S. universities in response to Congressional concerns that misappropriation of sensitive IP and acquisition of certain emerging technologies potentially compromise national security. Broadly referred to as “Foreign Influence,” this threat has been defined to include attempts by a foreign entity to gain unauthorized access to federally funded research; influence the direction of research activities based on sponsorship, financial donation, and other forms of in-kind support; and obtain intellectual property through IT penetration and other illegal activities.
In response to these concerns and consistent with how other peer national research universities are responding, the Office of the Provost and Dean of Faculties, with the support of the Office of the Executive Vice President, has tasked Research Administration with establishing a Foreign Influence Working Group that would proactively take steps to protect the University from Foreign Influence and research security concerns, as well as to build awareness within the university community around related concerns so as to better mitigate future risks.
The Foreign Influence Working Group, which is comprised of staff and faculty representatives from several key university functional areas, meets on a quarterly basis and is chaired by the Director of Research Security, Integrity and Compliance.