A checklist of considerations when working with foreign collaborators or conducting research or scholarly activities abroad
Monday, April 29, 2024

The University of Iowa is committed to engaging in research with collaborators from around the globe, working together to foster scholarship, develop new projects and research, and serve the public.  

“At the same time, it is important to safeguard intellectual property and institutional data, and to be aware of sponsor requirements and federal regulations,” said Mike Andrews, director of research integrity and security. “There are several institutional and federal regulations that researchers may not be aware of that are important to consider prior to leaving on a research trip abroad." 

Researchers at the University of Iowa have access to a wide range of resources available to support international collaboration. From travel insurance and laptop rentals, to assistance understanding federal sponsor requirements and export control regulations, UI staff are available to help prior to the initiation of a trip or collaboration.  

The Division of Sponsored Programs hosts an extensive website with resources and applicable policy information.  


 1. Review policies on travel and travel insurance  

Institutional policies 

In order for the institution to be informed of, and support researchers and scholars who are traveling internationally for research and scholarship, travelers must request pre-approval prior to university-sponsored travel. The pre-approval process in ProTrav, which routes to a traveler’s supervisor, ensures that the travel is approved and meets institutional requirements.  

The university provides travel insurance for university-sponsored travel to international locations only if the ProTrav trip request is approved in advance of the departure date. Read more about the UI travel policy. 

Sponsor policies 

In addition to requesting institutional approval, researchers must also request pre-approval from a sponsor if the travel is associated with a sponsored project.  Obtaining institutional approval via ProTrav does not constitute sponsor approval.  Since specific foreign travel approval requirements vary by sponsor, travelers should contact the Division of Sponsored Programs with questions about requesting prior approval. 


2. Disclose working with a foreign entity  

The U.S. government is engaged in a multifaceted effort to raise awareness of the potential for foreign influence on research, intellectual property, and associated technology implementation. To ensure that external activities are conducted in a manner consistent with institutional and public values, policies have been established to ensure that university employees avoid improper conflicts, and otherwise disclose activities for review and management. 

Institutional policies  

The university requires all researchers to disclose activities with foreign governments and institutions of higher education, such as presenting, teaching or conducting research external to university research activities. These disclosures should also include any form of payments, stipends, personal reimbursed travel, honoraria, and remunerations. 

The Conflict of Interest in Research Office can assist with any questions you have about what must be disclosed for research disclosure purposes. Although not exhaustive, a sample list of activities and external interests to disclose is posted on its website.  

Disclosing external research collaborations is also subject to conflict of commitment policies. Contact the Office of the Provost for more information on conflict of commitment disclosures.  

Activities under all conflict of interest and commitment policies must be disclosed to the institution through the eCOI platform 

Sponsor policies 

In addition, most federal sponsors require disclosure of other support or related activities with foreign governments and other organizations. For additional information about the information that must be disclosed to federal funding agencies, please review the Division of Sponsored Programs’ website or contact the Division of Sponsored Programs with questions.  


3. Protect university devices and data 

ITS hosts a webpage of best practices and things to consider prior to leaving campus on university-related business with personal or university owned equipment, with detailed checklists of considerations for both hardware and software. An important rule of thumb is to not travel with any devices or data you cannot replace or would not want to lose. 

ITS also offers a laptop rental program for various purposes including travel. Authorized departmental purchasing requestors can reserve equipment online for pickup at the ITS offices in 2800 University Capitol Centre during normal business hours (Monday-Friday, 8-5 p.m.). Details about the process are available on the ITS’s laptop rental webpage 


4. Consider export controls  

Export control regulations may apply to several aspects of international travel. Questions to consider prior to travel are: 

  • Destination: Are you traveling to a sanctioned country? 

  • People, institutions, and businesses you will interact with: Are they listed on a U.S. Government restricted list? The regulations prohibit engaging in transactions or providing services to entities and individuals who appear on U.S. Government restricted lists. 

  • Items you are carrying, both as part of your luggage or to share with a collaborator: Is it restricted for your destination or is a license required? 

  • Information/Technical Data on your devices: Is it export controlled?  

If you work with export-controlled items and/or technology, and/or have questions related to new travel, please contact an export control coordinator. 


General questions about research security may be directed to the Mike Andrews, director of research integrity and security in the Office of the Vice President for Research.