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Elevated-risk project review process

MIT’s engagements with three countries — China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia — are subject to additional faculty and administrative review to help identify and manage risks and ensure successful collaborations with international parties.

What activities are subject to additional review?

  • Projects funded by people or entities from China (including Hong Kong), Russia, and Saudi Arabia.
  • Projects that involve MIT faculty, staff, or students conducting work in these countries.
  • Collaborative projects with people or entities from these countries.

“Projects” refer here to engagements undertaken by members of the MIT community which are bound by formal MIT contractual relationships and agreements but not to informal or ad hoc interactions and collaborations. (For help and guidance on informal international collaborations involving these three countries, including how to navigate federal laws, regulations, and agency requirements bearing on such collaborations, please refer to the Informal International Collaboration (IIC) tool.)

The elevated risk review process described here also applies to gifts from China (including Hong Kong), Russia, and Saudi Arabia that are referred by MIT’s reconstituted Gift Acceptance Committee as part of their review and approval process.

Occasionally, projects not involving these three countries that are deemed by the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) to pose heightened risk to MIT may be subject to additional review. Also, faculty proposing global projects of a certain scope or complexity, even if not from one of these countries, may seek additional review through this process.

Please note that as international circumstances change, the list of countries or projects subject to additional review may be modified.

This elevated risk review process is in addition to the due diligence conducted as a matter of course for all global projects at MIT. Regarding the latter, the various offices that deal with legal, international and research matters work in consultation with one another on an ongoing basis to follow and ensure compliance with U.S. law and regulations.

What issues are considered in the elevated risk process?

  • U.S. national security risk: the risk that MIT discoveries and inventions created in the engagement will be used against the national security interests of the United States, or that foreign participants will gain access to unrelated MIT knowledge and technology that could be used against U.S. national security interests.
  • Political, civil, and human rights risk: the risk that research outcomes will be used in ways that would infringe on political, human, or civil rights in a foreign country, or that the engagement will indirectly legitimize violations of political, human, or civil rights in that country.
  • U.S. economic competitiveness risk: the risk that the collaboration will significantly benefit the efforts of a foreign government to strengthen the competitiveness of business entities in that country relative to their American business rivals, or that it could otherwise benefit a foreign government in a way that might significantly harm the competitiveness of American firms, or that a foreign entity, as a result of the engagement, could benefit from unpublished know-how developed during previous U.S. government-funded research.
  • The risk to the MIT community of providing support for actions that run counter to MIT’s core values, or that are not aligned with its academic mission, or that might lead to discrimination between members of our community, or that would permit undue external influence over the direction of MIT research or education.
  • Risks related to intellectual property, export control compliance, data security and access, the risks to MIT of not accepting an engagement, the potential risks to MIT’s reputation that are not included in any of the previous categories, and consideration of whether there are real benefits to MIT that would be difficult to obtain otherwise.

How do I submit projects for review?

If you are considering a project in, related to, or funded by a person or entity from China, Russia, or Saudi Arabia, please start by following your regular process and work with the relevant department or office. For example, you would begin with Research Administration Services (RAS) or the Office of Strategic Alliances and Technology Transfer (OSATT) for sponsored research, and with Resource Development for a potential gift, and they would then initiate the review process on your behalf.

If your activity falls outside an established process or you are uncertain about how to proceed, please reach out to for assistance.

How does the review process work?

Decisions on how a project might need to be modified to address risk and/or whether it should ultimately proceed are made in consultation with the Principal Investigator (PI) and are based on the following input:

Compliance Review by the International Coordinating Committee (ICC)

  • Your project will first be considered by the ICC, a group of experienced professional staff in key project areas such as finance, law, tax, export control, and operations. This stage of review requires a proposal and budget. The ICC will typically conduct due diligence on the sponsor/collaborator, sometimes with the assistance of third-party vendors.
  • After reviewing the project and the sponsor/collaborator, the ICC will provide the PI or contract administrator with information and advice on anticipated risks and ways to reduce or avoid these, if needed. The PI will then decide whether to modify certain aspects of the proposed project in response. ICC representatives may also assist with the contract negotiations.
  • The compliance review stage is an iterative process intended to increase a project’s viability and likelihood of approval. The ICC will ultimately recommend to the Vice Provost for International Activities either that the project should proceed or, if the residual risks after mitigation are significant, that it should be referred to the Senior Risk Group (SRG) for further review.

Academic Review by the International Advisory Committee (IAC)

  • Based on the recommendation of the Vice Provost for International Activities in consultation with the IAC chair, a small number of projects coming through the ICC compliance review process are selected for review by the IAC. The IAC is a faculty-led, standing committee of the Institute that provides an independent faculty voice in advising the senior administration on the Institute’s major international engagements with significant implications for the Institute’s core mission. Its role in the elevated-risk review process is to help ensure that projects referred to it will effectively advance MIT’s core academic mission of education, research, and service.

Project Risk Review by the Senior Risk Group

  • The SRG is comprised of the Vice Provost for International Activities, the Vice President for Research (VPR), and the Vice President and General Counsel, and it is supported by staff from the Office of the Vice Provost for International Activities, Office of General Counsel, VPR/Research Compliance, and the MIT Washington office.
  • Projects referred to the SRG by the ICC are reviewed in consultation with the PI.  The reviews take into account the evaluations of potential project risks by the ICC and, as needed, with input from country and regional experts and other specialists at MIT and elsewhere. Occasionally ad hoc faculty committees may be convened for advice on particularly challenging issues. The SRG either approves the project with a risk management plan or decides that the project should not proceed.
  • For projects that have previously undergone IAC review, the IAC’s recommendations are also a key part of the SRG process.


International Coordinating Committee

International Coordinating Committee

Contact the ICC