Whether submitting a funding proposal to a domestic agency for international research or to an international funding agency, principal investigators and others involved in international research will need to examine closely a variety of components required to submit a successful proposal.
Building your Proposal
- Understand the process for submitting a specific funding proposal for international research
- Principal Investigator should be sufficiently qualified to conduct the proposed research. Seek the advice and input of senior researchers who have experience with international research and/or experience with the particular funding agency.
- If the global research funding program requires partners from outside the United States, this may limit eligibility as to whom can apply for funding. Qualified countries are sometimes limited to those nations that are developing/third world nations or intracontinental in nature. It is important to be aware if Pitt (or even the United States) is eligible to apply for funding from the sponsor.
- Ensure that your research “speaks” to the audience of reviewers, so that they will find your work necessary not only in the geographical region where you wish to conduct research. Reviewers of your proposal may include academic and non-academic review boards. Non-academic reviewer boards will consist of national/regional/local politicians, journalists, policy makers, and renowned field experts.
- A strong, viable case must be presented that shows that the research will have broader implications beyond the funding source. Articulating the significance of the research and who might also benefit from the work will need to be included.
Language & Culture
Word and number usage throughout the proposal (title, scientific proposal, budget and justification) must be clear and easily understood given that some reviewers may be non-English dominant personnel. In many cases, award amounts must be reflected in the common currency utilized by the host nation.
Be aware of the following specifics when preparing your proposal for the funding source:
- Cultural awareness and understanding
- Common languages spoken and understood
- Literacy rate of population
- Political and economic volatility
- Security risks
- Local and national laws pertaining to nature of human subject research
Project ample time abroad to complete your research work. Time should be set aside for delays in obtaining work permits/visa approvals and renewals, compliance approvals, local holiday schedules, religious celebrations during research activity, political bureaucracy obtaining permits, etc.
Curriculum vitae, bibliographies, and other information for foreign personnel on the project may need to be provided for all proposals. Thorough background checks on all foreign personnel may be required as well as to validate competency of ability to work on the research project and on non-research activities. The foreign country may have different credentialing and licensing requirements for foreign personnel to those required in the United States.
Account for unique costs when sending researchers abroad. The following are costs to be considered outside the normal realm of US-based research:
- Indirect cost recovery cap and what can and cannot be included in the calculations
- Income and social taxes to local authorities
- Hiring of local population for non-research related or administrative tasks
- Currency fluctuation and currency conversion losses
- For collaborations with local sub-contractors, background checks on financial solvency, reputation, legal business registration, etc., should be considered for each entity
- Site security
- Overtime/local holidays
- Health insurance compensation
- Data storage – paper and electronic
- Land access permits
- Wire-transfer/transfer taxes
- Local legal and consultant fees while on site
- Translation services
- Compensation for research subject harm
- More information on building an international research budget, costs, allowable expenses, and currency fluctuation is available on the Budget Planning page.
If your work is taking place in a location that does not support modern credit card or banking activities and where it is not feasible to contract with a local vendor, work with your departmental fiscal officer well in advance of travel to establish a funding mechanism to support the research.
Human and Animal Subjects
Human subject’s research must be sensitive to local cultural norms. Voluntary informed consent forms must be in the simplest language, contain no jargon, emphasize the study is voluntary, differentiate between standard care and research, and describe the risks of participation. Poor illiteracy rates in an area may constitute hiring a surrogate contact to explain the consent form and process to potential subjects. Please see the Human Research Protection Office (IRB) Website for both global and per country details for conducting human research. The 2016 edition of the International Compilation of Human Research Standards is also available online for review.
Research on animals abroad faces regulations beyond the scope of the standard Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) protocol here in the United States. Local, regional, and country consortiums may play a part in reviewing animal research approvals. Please consult the Pitt IACUC Office and the AAALAC International for both global and per country details for conducting animal research.
Data Security for Research Collected Abroad
When research is being conducted outside of the United States, special care should be taken with the methods being used to collect, transmit, and/or store that data. The following guidelines will help reduce the risk to that data:
- Make sure any devices being used are fully patched and up to date.
- Data should be transmitted and stored in University approved services hosted in the United States, such as Box and/or OneDrive.
- If data must be stored locally, make sure it is done so on an encrypted device (unless otherwise prohibited).
- Keep devices that are being used for research collection, transmittal, or storage physically secure and, ideally, in your possession at all times.
- Additionally, follow any other technology guidelines as described in the Technology Guidelines for International Travel.
Importing & Exporting Materials
International shipments of materials, technology, and software are subject to numerous import and export obligations. Contact the Office of Trade Compliance for assistance with complying to all applicable import/export laws and regulations.
University and Federal Regulatory Guidelines
Those engaging in overseas research and collaborations may be required to review or consult the University and Federal regulatory guidelines as applicable in the following areas:
- Customs requirements and permits for shipping physical items
- Importing or exporting materials – More information available at the Office of Trade Compliance
- Dual Use Export License – More information available at the Office of Trade Compliance
- Material Transfer Agreements – More information available at the Office of Sponsored Programs
- Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC) – More information available at the DURC
Since international laws may be different than those in the United States, considerations concerning your intellectual property, patents, copyrights, and commercialization potential should be addressed early. Please consult the University Of Pittsburgh Office Of Technology Management to assist you.
In some instances, simply conducting research activities itself triggers the establishment of an entity under local law. The creation of an entity may result in the University becoming subject to foreign taxes, labor laws, and other financial/legal obligations. See Establishing a Legal Presence Abroad for additional details.
The following links may provide additional assistance for researchers conducting international research:
- Office of Human Research Protection (OHRP) International Activities Program
- International Compilation of Human Research Standards, 2016 Edition
- AAALAC International
- Funding Opportunities and Support Services – European Union Horizon 2020 Funding Initiative
- University of Pittsburgh Center for Global Health
- CRDF GLOBAL – Virginia based consulting firm which promotes international scientific and technical collaboration through grants, technical resources, training and services
The following agencies may prove helpful in securing international research funding:
- National Institutes of Health
- National Science Foundation
- Horizon 2020
- Department of Defense
- Department of Education
For more information on considerations for conducting international research or to answer any questions, please contact the following: