U.S. academic institutions benefit greatly from the contributions of international scholars, but some foreign governments employ systematic efforts to influence and capitalize on our breakthrough research, advanced technology, and world-class expertise.
Concerns include foreign talent recruitment programs, theft of intellectual property, violations of the integrity of the peer-review process, research grants disguised as gifts, student recruitment, unmonitored engagements with student groups, activities of visiting scholars, and collaborators with ties to foreign governments. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign takes this threat seriously.
Protecting the Illinois Research Enterprise
Inappropriate foreign influence on university research is a legitimate, non-partisan, and growing concern. The University of Illinois remains dedicated to cultivating research collaborations with foreign sponsors and being transparent about our external relationships, maintaining the integrity of our research enterprise, and protecting our intellectual property and university resources.
Disclose. Ask. Protect.
- Be transparent in disclosure. Researchers should be thorough and complete in accounting for all forms of research support, interests, and collaboration.
- Work with Export Controls. Contact Illinois Export Controls for guidance about export control regulations, international travel, screening, and collaboration with foreign colleagues.
- Protect intellectual property. Report all inventions and any intellectual property created, in accordance with sponsor requirements.
- Follow university protocol when hosting visiting scholars. Follow Illinois requirements for visiting scholars and guests and contact Export Controls prior to any visit to the university.
- Keep peer review confidential. Information gained through peer review—whether reviewing grant applications or publications—should never be shared.
Tools and Processes to Address Inappropriate Foreign Influence
- The University’s disclosure process for external activities
- Select screening of foreign institutions and individuals
- Visitor control plans
- Letters of attestation
- Technical control plans
- Continuous training and awareness activities
Compliance with Federal Regulations
We have taken several specific steps to comply with federal regulations and protect members of our research community from inappropriate foreign influence. The university has been proactive in establishing clear and effective safeguards and engagement limitations in our research agreements, long before the recent escalation of national conversations about academic espionage.
Specific examples include:
- Alerting members of the Illinois Research Community about inappropriate foreign influence and reminding them of their responsibilities to:
- Safeguard university resources and intellectual property;
- Fully disclose external financial interests, affiliations, and activities;
- Follow export regulations.
- Managing risk in entering any sponsored agreement with a foreign entity by weighing the risk against the potential benefits to our students, our university, our state, and our nation.
- Reviewing all associated current practices and processes to discover and mitigate any gaps in compliance, including foreign engagements with our student organizations.
Ongoing Outreach and Engagement
While we recognize and advocate for the pursuit of open science (subject to transparency, reciprocity, and openness), we have been diligent in strengthening our programs that bolster security and mitigate risk and talking about these resources with members of the Illinois research community. We continue to work closely with our System’s Office of Governmental Relations and national organizations, such as the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and the Association of American Universities to develop and share best practices and to alert our faculty and staff of security threats, and we look forward to working in collaboration with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Congress, and the federal funding agencies in supporting the Securing American Science and Technology Act (SASTA).