On January 4, 2022, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released new guidance on improving U.S. research security. The directive calls on agencies to draft uniform policies for scientists to disclose foreign sources of research funding.
The OSTP directive, developed through its National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), lays out implementation guidance for a January 2021 memorandum on national security issued by the Trump Administration to strengthen protections of U.S. government-supported research and development against foreign government interference, while “maintaining an open environment to foster research discoveries.”
The guidance instructs agencies to coordinate together, through the NSTC, to develop standardized research security policies and disclosure requirements across agencies “to reduce uncertainty and establish clear, persistent guidelines for researchers to follow.” It encourages the use of tools such as digital persistent identifiers (DPI) to simplify disclosure and compliance. It also asks agencies to establish clear guidelines for determining penalties for failure to appropriately disclose requested information.
Notably, the document lays out implementation guidance for establishing mechanisms to share information across agencies about both violations and potential violations. In addition, it requires research organizations receiving more than $50 million annually in federal research funds to maintain a “research security program” that incorporates elements of cybersecurity, research security training, foreign travel security, and export control training.
As the next step, OSTP Director Dr. Eric Lander has ordered federal research agencies “to work together within the next 120 days to develop model grant application forms and instructions that can be used (and adapted where required) by any federal research funding agency.” He added that the goal is “for the government to clearly describe what it needs to know and for researchers to be able to report the same information in the same way to the greatest extent possible, regardless of which funding agency they’re applying to.”
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