The U.S. government maintains a complex set of “antiboycott” laws designed to discourage, and in some circumstances prohibit, U.S. organizations from supporting or participating in boycotts of friendly countries, or furthering or supporting the boycott of Israel as sponsored by the Arab League and certain other countries. Under these laws, the receipt of a request, whether verbal or written, to further a boycott may need to be reported. These laws are very easy to break. For example, agreements to refuse or actual refusal to do business with or in Israel or with a blacklisted company could constitute a violation.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is also relevant, but might not be on the radar of some institutions. There has recently been a significant uptick in Department of Justice enforcement actions in this area. The anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA broadly prohibit giving, offering, or promising anything of value to any foreign official for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business or any other advantage. Universities may have the perception that they cannot run afoul of FCPA because they are a nonprofit and do not deal with elected government officials, but this is actually not the case. There are a number of plausible scenarios under which universities can encounter the FCPA.
Astrid-Christina Koch, Science Counselor for the Science, Technology and Education Section at the Delegation of the European Commission (EC) in Washington, DC, works on strengthening trans-Atlantic research cooperation and promoting networking and mobility of researchers. She discussed collaboration in the context of the EC’s 7th Framework Program (FP7), a 53 billion € program that began in 2007 and runs through 2013. The Lisbon Treaty of 2009 explicitly mentions science and technology advancement as an objective of the European Union.
There are several rationales for the EC to support trans-Atlantic research collaboration, including the imperative of solving global problems and the need to build better networks of researchers and institutions. The EC has a science and technology agreement with the United States originally signed in 1998 and renewed several times since. There is an annual meeting of the Joint Consultative Group associated with the agreement. Most collaboration under the agreement is within the context of FP7. FP7