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Research Funding

NIH grantees often fail to report foreign interests

A survey showed that many institutions don’t ask about foreign funding sources

by Andrea Widener
June 9, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 21

Most US National Institutes of Health grant recipients are not meeting all federal requirements to report investigators’ foreign financial interests, according to an analysis by the inspector general overseeing the agency.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the NIH, surveyed grantee institutions about their disclosure practices for foreign financial support of NIH-funded investigators; 617 of 773 responded. The survey was spurred by concerns that some investigators are hiding support, especially from China.

Two-thirds of those surveyed failed to meet at least one reporting requirement, according to the analysis. Institutions most often failed to disclose business investments from foreign sources, in-kind donations, professional affiliations, or participation in foreign talent programs. Disclosure around R13 grants that fund conferences and meetings was particularly confusing for institutions.

Only a quarter of institutions provide training to investigators about disclosure requirements; the OIG recommends that they provide both written guidance and training.

In addition, institutions do not always ask investigators whether their financial support comes from foreign sources or validate the funding source. About 10% of institutions who responded don’t examine whether foreign funding could create a conflict of interest.

The OIG recommends that the NIH modify and clarify its reporting requirements to ensure that grantee institutions are collecting accurate information from NIH-funded investigators and provide a way for institutions to share best practices for training and data collection.



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