Federal sponsors have become particularly concerned about participation in talent programs that are sponsored by non-domestic governments or entities. A non-domestic government sponsored talent program is an effort directly or indirectly organized, managed, or funded by a non-domestic government to recruit science and technology professionals or students (regardless of citizenship or national origin).
Although many countries sponsor talent recruitment programs that utilize legitimate means of attracting talent, some can be problematic and may encourage unethical and criminal behaviors. Contracts for participation in some programs, including some sponsored by the Chinese government, can include language that creates conflicts of commitment and/or conflicts of interest for researchers. Examples of problematic terms may include:
- Requirements to attribute awards, patents, and projects to the non-domestic institution, even if conducted under U.S. funding
- Requirements to recruit or train other talent recruitment program members, or to hire and mentor students from a specified country, circumventing merit-based processes
- Requirements to replicate or transfer U.S.-funded work in another country
- Requirements that impose secrecy on the researcher and ban them from disclosing their participation in the agreement or disclosing the findings of their research
- Stringent restrictions on the termination of the contract
Please note that faculty are not authorized to sign contracts relating to University work or University resources. If you are presented with a contract involving MSU or your work at MSU, please work with your departmental administrator for routing and submission to the Office of Sponsored Programs. If you are presented with a contract outside of your MSU appointment, please confirm you are following all institutional policies, such as, Outside Work for Pay, Dual Appointments, Financial Conflicts of Interest, and Intellectual Property. Also, ensure sponsor regulations have been followed, such as, disclosing research activities, providing proper attribution, and following confidentiality requirements.
While participation in talent programs is not banned, any support from or involvement in such a program must be disclosed both to the University and to U.S. funding agencies for any active awards or within proposal submissions. Depending on the sponsor and proposed research, Key Personnel may be advised (or required) to terminate their affiliation with the talent program in order to receive an award.
As a result of these concerns, sponsors may implement additional conditions or restrictions on participation in non-domestic talent programs. For example:
- NSF and NIH have suspended and terminated awards when the PI did not disclose their participation in a talent program.
- Funding agencies may require a translated copy of the talent program agreement prior to making an award or releasing funding. Depending on the sponsor, this requirement may be applied more broadly to all non-domestic activities and resources.
- Problematic talent program contractual requirements, as identified above, may deem the PI ineligible to receive U.S. Government funding.