[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 228 (Tuesday, November 26, 2019)]
[Pages 65194-65197]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-25604]



Request for Information on the American Research Environment

AGENCY: Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

ACTION: Notice of request for information (RFI) on the American 
research environment


SUMMARY: On behalf of the National Science and Technology Council's 
(NSTC's) Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE), the OSTP 
requests input on actions that Federal agencies can take, working in 
partnership with private industry, academic institutions, and non-
profit/philanthropic organizations, to maximize the quality and 
effectiveness of the American research environment. Specific emphasis 
is placed on ensuring that the research environment is welcoming to all 
individuals and enables them to work safely, efficiently, ethically, 
and with mutual respect, consistent with the values of free inquiry, 
competition, openness, and fairness.

DATES: Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before 
11:59 p.m. ET on December 23, 2019.

ADDRESSES: Comments submitted in response to this notice may be 
submitted online to: the NSTC Executive Director, Chloe Kontos, 
[email protected]. Email submissions should be machine-readable [pdf, 
word] and not copy-protected. Submissions should include ``RFI 
Response: JCORE'' in the subject line of the message.
    Instructions: Response to this RFI is voluntary. Each individual or 
institution is requested to submit only one response. Submission must 
not exceed

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10 pages in 12 point or larger font, with a page number provided on 
each page. Responses should include the name of the person(s) or 
organization(s) filing the comment. Comments containing references, 
studies, research, and other empirical data that are not widely 
published should include copies or electronic links of the referenced 
    It is suggested that no business proprietary information, 
copyrighted information, or personally identifiable information be 
submitted in response to this RFI.
    In accordance with FAR 15.202(3), responses to this notice are not 
offers and cannot be accepted by the Federal Government to form a 
binding contract. Additionally, those submitting responses are solely 
responsible for all expenses associated with response preparation.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For additional information, please 
direct your questions to the NSTC Executive Director, Chloe Kontos, 
[email protected].

working to address key areas that impact the U.S. research enterprise; 
enabling a culture supportive of the values and ethical norms critical 
to world-leading science and technology. This includes the need to 
improve safety and inclusivity, integrity, and security of research 
settings while balancing accountability and productivity.
    Specifically, JCORE is working to:
     Ensure rigor and integrity in research: This subcommittee 
is identifying cross-agency principles, priorities, and actions to 
enhance research integrity, rigor, reproducibility, and replicability. 
This includes exploring how Federal government agencies and stakeholder 
groups, including research institutions, publishers, researchers, 
industry, non-profit and philanthropic organizations, and others, can 
work collaboratively to support activities that facilitate research 
rigor and integrity through efforts to address transparency, 
incentives, communication, training and other areas.
     Coordinate administrative requirements for Federally-
funded research: This subcommittee is identifying and assessing 
opportunities to coordinate agency policies and requirements related to 
Federal grant processes and conflicts of interest disclosure. 
Additionally, this subcommittee is also exploring how persistent 
digital identifiers and researcher profile databases can be used to 
reduce administrative work and track agency investments.
     Strengthen the security of America's S&T research 
enterprise: This subcommittee is working to enhance risk assessment and 
management, coordinate outreach and engagement across the research 
enterprise, strengthen disclosure requirements and policies, enhance 
oversight and vigilance, and work with organizations that perform 
research to develop best practices that can be applied across all 
sectors. The subcommittee is taking a risk-based approach to 
strengthening the security of our research enterprise balanced with 
maintaining appropriate levels of openness that underpins American 
global leadership in science and technology.
     Foster safe, inclusive, and equitable research 
environments: This subcommittee is convening the multi-sector research 
community to identify challenges and opportunities, share best 
practices, utilize case studies, and share lessons learned in order to 
promote practices and cultures that build safe, inclusive, and 
equitable research environments.

Research Rigor and Integrity

    The National Academies and others have in recent reports on rigor, 
reproducibility and replicability \1\ and integrity,\2\ identified a 
number of areas that Federal agencies and non-Federal stakeholders 
should consider to foster rigorous research. The subcommittee on Rigor 
and Integrity in Research is seeking perspectives on actions Federal 
agencies can take, working in partnership with the broader research 
community, to strengthen the rigor and integrity of research while 
recognizing the need for discipline-specific flexibilities.

    \1\ National Academy of Sciences. Reproducibility and 
Replicability in Science (2019)
    \2\ National Academy of Sciences. Fostering Integrity in 
Research (2017)

    1. What actions can Federal agencies take to facilitate the 
reproducibility, replicability, and quality of research? What 
incentives currently exist to (1) conduct and report research so that 
it can be reproduced, replicated, or generalized more readily, and (2) 
reproduce and replicate or otherwise confirm or generalize publicly 
reported research findings?
    2. How can Federal agencies best work with the academic community, 
professional societies, and the private sector to enhance research 
quality, reproducibility, and replicability? What are current 
impediments and how can institutions, other stakeholders, and Federal 
agencies collaboratively address them?
    3. How do we ensure that researchers, including students, are aware 
of the ethical principles of integrity that are fundamental to 
    4. What incentives can Federal agencies provide to encourage 
reporting of null or negative research findings? How can agencies best 
work with publishers to to facilitate reporting of null or negative 
results and refutations, constraints on reporting experimental methods, 
failure to fully report caveats and limitations of published research, 
and other issues that compromise reproducibility and replicability?
    5. How can the U.S. government best align its efforts to foster 
research rigor, reproducibility, and replicability with those of 
international partners?

Coordinating Administrative Requirements for Research

    Numerous reports and recommendations, including from the National 
Academies,\3\ the National Science Board,\4\ and the Government 
Accountability Office,\5\ have highlighted concerns about increasing 
administrative work for Federally-funded researchers. Congress has 
directed Federal agencies to reduce the administrative burden 
associated with Federal awards through the 21st Century Cures Act (Pub. 
L. 114-25) and the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (Pub. L. 
114-329). Despite these efforts, preliminary reports from the Federal 
Demonstration Partnership indicate that the time university faculty 
spend administering Federal awards, rather than on research, has 
continued to increase.

    \3\ National Academies report Optimizing the Nation's Investment 
in Academic Research (2016).
    \4\ National Science Board report Reducing Investigators' 
Administrative Workload for Federally Funded Research (2014).
    \5\ Government Accountability Office report Federal Research 
Grants: Opportunities Remain for Agencies to Streamline 
Administrative Requirements (2016).

    Taking into consideration the current Federal landscape with 
respect to individual Federal agency financial conflict of interest 
(FCOI) regulations and policies, including definitions, disclosure or 
reporting requirements and thresholds, training requirements, and 
timing for disclosure, please comment on the following:
    1. What actions can the Federal government take to reduce 
administrative work associated with FCOI requirements for researchers, 
institutions, and Federal agency staff?
    2. How can Federal agencies best achieve the appropriate balance

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between reporting and administrative requirements and the potential 
risk of unreported or managed financial conflicts that could compromise 
the research?
    3. From the perspective of institutions, describe the impact of the 
2011 revisions to the Public Health Services FCOI regulations. What 
were the implications with respect to the balance between burden and 
risk? Did the revisions result in fewer significant unresolved or 
unreported financial conflicts?
    4. Please comment on whether and how a streamlined, harmonized, 
Federal-wide policy for FCOI would provide benefits with respect to 
reducing administrative work and whether there would be anticipated 
    5. How can agencies best reduce workload associated with submitting 
and reviewing applications for Federal research funding? What 
information is necessary to assess the merit of the proposed research, 
and what information can be delayed until after the merit determination 
is made (``just-in-time'')?

Research Security

    The open and internationally collaborative nature of the U.S. 
science and technology research enterprise underpins America's 
innovation, science and technology leadership, economic 
competitiveness, and national security. However, over the past several 
years, some nations have exhibited increasingly sophisticated efforts 
to exploit, influence, our research activities and environments. Some 
of these recent efforts have come through foreign government-sponsored 
talent recruitment programs. Breaches of research ethics, both within 
talent programs and more generally, include the failure to disclose 
required information such as foreign funding, unapproved parallel 
foreign laboratories (so-called shadow labs), affiliations and 
appointments, and conflicting financial interests. Other inappropriate 
behaviors include conducting undisclosed research for foreign 
governments or companies on United States agency time or with United 
States agency funding, diversion of intellectual property or other 
legal rights, and breaches of contract and confidentiality in or 
surreptitious gaming of the peer-review process.
    In light of these concerns, we seek public input on the following 
    1. How can the U.S. Government work with organizations that perform 
research to manage and mitigate the risk of misappropriation of 
taxpayer or other funds through unethical behaviors in the research 
enterprise? Please consider:
    a. Disclosure requirements and policies. Who within the research 
enterprise should disclose financial as well as nonfinancial support 
and affiliations (e.g., faculty, senior researchers, postdoctoral 
researchers, students, visitors)? What information should be disclosed, 
and to whom? What period of time should the disclosure cover? How 
should the disclosures be validated especially since they are made 
voluntarily? What are appropriate consequences for nondisclosure?
    b. Disclosure of sources of support for participants in the 
research enterprise. What additional sources of support should be 
disclosed, and should they include current or pending participation in 
foreign government-sponsored talent recruitment programs?
    c. What information can the government provide to organizations 
that perform research to help them assess risks to research security 
and integrity?
    2. How can the U.S. government best partner across the research 
enterprise to enhance research security? Please consider:
    a. Appropriate roles and responsibilities for government agencies, 
institutions, and individuals;
    b. Discovery of and communication of information regarding 
activities that threaten the security and integrity of the research 
enterprise; and
    c. Establishment and operation of research security programs at 
organizations that perform research.
    3. What other practices should organizations that perform research 
adopt and follow to help protect the security and integrity of the 
research enterprise? Please consider:
    a. Organization measures to protect emerging and potentially 
critical early-stage research and technology.
    b. How can Federal agencies and research institutions measure and 
balance the benefits and risks associated with international research 

Safe and Inclusive Research Environments

    JCORE is focused on identifying actions that will ensure research 
environments in America are free from harassment of any kind, and from 
any conditions that encourage or tolerate harassment or other forms of 
behavior that are inconsistent with the ethical norms of research. The 
aim is to foster an American research enterprise, which epitomizes our 
values and those of research itself, namely, where researchers feel 
welcome and are encouraged to join, wish to remain, and subsequently 
thrive. To achieve this, leaders must create a research environment 
that welcomes all individuals, values their ideas, treats individuals 
as equals, and promotes bold thinking, rigorous and civil debate, and 
collegiality. With this focus in mind, we seek the public's input on 
the following questions:
    1. What policies and practices are most beneficial in fostering a 
culture of safe and inclusive research environments? Where applicable, 
please provide information on:
    a. Organizational leadership actions that create a culture of 
    b. Best practices for preventing harassment from beginning;
    c. Best practices for prohibiting retaliation against those who 
report harassment;
    d. Best practices for re-integrating those who have been accused of 
harassment but found to be innocent;
    e. Whether your organization has a common code of ethics applicable 
to researchers, and whether that code is highlighted and actively 
promoted in training, research practice, etc;
    f. How institution-based procedures for reporting cases of sexual 
harassment and non-sexual harassment (or toxic climate) differ, and if 
there are aspects of one set of policies that would be beneficial for 
broader inclusion.
    2. What barriers does your organization face in the recruitment and 
retention of diverse researchers? Where applicable, please provide 
information on:
    a. The setting to which it applies (i.e., academic, industry, 
    b. Whether your organization has best practices or challenges 
specific to recruitment and retention of global talent;
    c. Solutions your organization has used to successfully increase 
recruitment or retention of diverse and/or international researchers;
    d. Best practices to promote bold thinking and enable collegiality 
in debate.
    3. Are Federal agency policies on harassment complimentary or 
conflicting with regard to state or organizational policies? Where 
applicable, please provide information on:
    a. What aspects are in conflict, along with the associated agency 
    b. What aspects are most protective and make policy reasonable to 
    c. What processes have effectively streamlined the administrative 
workload associated with implementation, compliance, or reporting.

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    4. What metrics can the Federal government use to assess progress 
in promoting safer and more inclusive research environments? Where 
applicable, please provide information on:
    a. What methods your organization uses to assess workplace climate;
    b. What systems within your organization were developed to enforce 
and/or report back to agencies;
    c. What metrics does your organization uses to assess effectiveness 
of safe and inclusive practices;
    d. What actions does your organization take communicate climate 
survey results, both within your organization and to external 

Sean Bonyun,
Chief of Staff, Office of Science and Technology Policy.
[FR Doc. 2019-25604 Filed 11-25-19; 8:45 am]