Research Security Program

Protecting Open Global Collaboration

Why is Research Security Important?

Open scientific and scholarly collaboration between scholars from all over the world is one of the cornerstones of innovation and technological advancement, and Penn State remains committed to fostering such collaboration. While the vast majority of international affiliations do not present a security risk, the Federal government has increased its attention to research in foreign countries. There have been cases at some universities in the United States where researchers have violated laws and policies aimed at preventing lapses in research security. In response to this, Penn State is establishing a Research Security Program. 

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What is Research Security?

Research security is a broad term that refers primarily to national security concerns surrounding research involving certain types of sensitive data, intellectual property, export controlled information, and other risks. An area which the federal government has focused on as critical to protecting the security of U.S. research is the disclosure of conflicts of interest and commitment, including relationships or affiliations with foreign entities, and research support provided by those entities.



Penn State's Research Security Program

Below are the components of Penn State’s research security program, which is an interdisciplinary collaborative effort among various offices at the University. This program is a central point of contact for research security at Penn State. Please email with any questions.


As indicated above, disclosure and transparency surrounding relationships with, and research support from, foreign entities have been identified by the federal government as key to managing and protecting the security of our research. Researchers are expected to disclose outside financial interests and Outside Professional Activities through the Office for Research Protections (ORP). Similarly, researchers are required to disclose Other Support or Current & Pending Support in their grant and contract applications. The ORP and the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) work together to support the disclosure process and are available to answer questions as needed. See the following pages for more information and contacts.

The Export Compliance Officer maintains responsibility for establishing, implementing, and enforcing University-wide export compliance policies, procedures, and guidelines designed to meet or exceed the requirements of the various federal laws governing the export of goods, technology, and information, including compliance with ITAR, EAR, and OFAC regulations.


Cybersecurity is an expansive and complex area and its scope extends well beyond research. For purposes of research security, the following resources are helpful starting points.


Research taking place under government contracts may be subject to additional security controls. For assistance with this type of research, please email the Office of Information Security (OIS) at


Faculty, staff and students traveling for University purposes (regardless of the funding source) must record international travel in the Travel Safety Network database at least 30 days prior to departure as outlined in the University’s International Travel Requirements Policy TR01. This includes travel for international research, conferences, and internships.

For more information, please visit Global Program’s website.


A process for reviewing visitors to Penn State is part of the comprehensive approach to research security outlined in NSPM-33. The Visiting Scholars process is composed of reviews by a number of University offices to ensure that our esteemed visitors comply with regulatory requirements.

Hosts of Visiting Scholars should be aware that effort from Visiting Scholars who have support from their home institutions may need to be disclosed as Other Support.


The U.S. Federal government has placed restrictions on researchers participating in Malign Foreign Talent Recruitment Programs. While a firm definition of a “Foreign Talent Recruitment Program” is still being developed by the government, it has issued guidance on what makes one “malign”. If you have been asked to do any of the following in connection with a foreign entity, please contact the Research Security Program at to discuss before entering into an agreement or engaging in an activity:

  • Engage in the unauthorized transfer of intellectual property, materials, data, or other nonpublic information;
  • Recruit trainees or researchers to enroll in a program or activity or accept a position with the foreign entity;
  • Establish a lab;
  • Form a company;
  • Accept a faculty position or other employment;
  • Sign a contract or agreement which you are unable to terminate except in extraordinary circumstances;
  • Commit a specified amount of time to work for the foreign institution;
  • Engage in work which would overlap with your Penn State research;
  • Apply for or receive funding from the foreign government that would be awarded to the foreign institution;
  • Omit acknowledgement of the foreign institution, or any U.S. federal research sponsors;
  • To not disclose to Penn State or the U.S. federal government, your affiliation with the foreign institution.