Letter from Deborah L. Crawford, Ph.D., to Mason Researchers
Important Notice: Foreign Support and Outside Professional Activities
Update on Federal Sponsors’ Transparency Requirements
I would like to bring to your attention recent concerns identified by the U.S. government regarding improper foreign influence in U.S. academic institutions. Although foreign nationals have contributed, and will continue to contribute, in countless ways to the vibrancy, productivity and intellectual diversity of our Nation’s academic research enterprise, the U.S. government is concerned that some foreign governments are taking advantage of our open and highly collaborative system by engaging in initiatives to unduly influence and capitalize on our research, scholarly outputs and outcomes. Risks to our national research enterprise include activities that compromise the quality of the peer review system, fail to protect our intellectual property, and may compromise core academic values such as academic freedom.
George Mason University, like research universities around the country, remains wholeheartedly committed to fostering and supporting highly productive engagements and collaborations with foreign entities and individuals while also promoting full transparency surrounding all interactions with external sponsors and collaborators, both foreign and domestic. Consequently, I am writing to remind you how important it is that you disclose ALL of your outside relationships and activities, both foreign and domestic, consistent with the requirements of your government sponsors and Mason’s conflict of interest policy. While particular requirements for disclosure differ from agency to agency – see Overview at the end of this message – common threads run through all discussions about improper foreign influence, including the importance of transparency and the implementation of comprehensive processes that permit scrutiny of outside professional activities and support.
Please note that failure to fully disclose outside interests and sources of support when submitting proposals to the federal government may jeopardize an investigator’s eligibility for future funding. In some recent cases at other U.S. institutions, the failure of investigators to disclose foreign financial interests resulted in criminal penalties.
Deborah L. Crawford, Ph.D.
Vice President for Research, Innovation and Economic Impact
George Mason University