The University of Michigan is taking steps to strengthen transparency and streamline the reporting processes around international engagement, including efforts to centralize procedures for disclosing activities and develop a system to audit compliance.

Michael Imperiale, associate vice president for research — research policy and compliance, shared the update Feb. 17 with about 40 attendees at the first of three campus town halls scheduled this week to discuss best practices in international engagement.

The goal is for faculty to properly disclose all activities and for U-M to continue operating by its institutional values as a global university, Imperiale said.

“We train and educate domestic and foreign students, and we collaborate with domestic and foreign researchers,” he said. “We value these collaborations.”

Michael Imperiale (left), associate vice president for research — research policy and compliance, looks on as Craig Reynolds, executive director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects, presents information at the town hall. (Photo by Scott C. Soderberg, Michigan Photography)

Additional events, which are free and open to U-M faculty and staff, will be:

  • Feb. 19, 10:30-11:30 a.m. at University Hospital, Ford Auditorium.
  • Feb. 20, 9:30-10:30 a.m. at the School of Dentistry, Room G550.

Many of the questions posed by faculty members during the town hall Monday centered on specific reporting requirements for a variety of situations.

Craig Reynolds, executive director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects, told the audience he welcomed the questions as faculty and staff navigate these processes.

“We really want everyone to be as compliant as possible,” Reynolds said. “We all have a vested interest in our faculty doing the best science, while maintaining full compliance.”

Federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, have implemented measures in recent months that require increased transparency around those international activities that may unduly influence research or the peer review process. Failure to comply with these new and revised policies could jeopardize the ability of faculty and the university to receive federal research funding.

Science Magazine reported earlier this month that federal prosecutors leading an effort to curtail economic espionage say there will be increased prosecutions among researchers who work with Chinese institutions. Last month, the chair of Harvard University’s chemistry department was arrested after allegedly lying about contacts with a Chinese state-run initiative.

U-M is the nation’s top public university in regard to research volume with $1.62 billion in research expenditures during fiscal year 2019.

In his presentation at the town hall, Imperiale outlined the steps the university is taking in response to the revised federal policies. The U-M Office of Research, for example, has worked with units across campus to develop a web portal that features information and resources to promote successful research engagement with international collaborators.

The work goes hand-in-hand with the responsibilities of faculty and staff to familiarize themselves with the policies of U-M and their funding agencies, register foreign travel and disclose all international activities and affiliations, Imperiale said.

“We’re examining our policies and procedures,” he said. “We want to make sure they’re easy to follow and easy to understand.”

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