Mitigating risk in international and outside professional activities

March 4, 2024
Maria T. Zuber, Vice President for Research, 2013–2024 | Richard Lester, Vice Provost for International Activities |

Dear Colleagues,

The November 2022 report of the MIT China Strategy Group laid out a set of principles regarding MIT’s engagement with individuals and organizations in China and other countries. The report’s authors advanced an approach, rooted in the core values of the Institute, that seeks a balance between open science and research security and “that combines selective engagement with targeted risk assessment and management.”

The report recognized that many worthwhile activities that advance MIT’s research and teaching mission may nevertheless pose some amount of risk in the current global context. With well-informed judgment, such risks can often be mitigated or eliminated.

We write today to share two new resources developed in response to some of the report’s recommendations. We believe that propagating clear, accessible guidance will help MIT faculty and researchers to act with confidence in fostering and sustaining valued relationships – whether here in Cambridge or abroad.

Two new resources

1. A primer on Assessing and Mitigating Risk, hosted by the Office of the Vice President for Research, compiles requirements and guidance across a number of topics:

  • Participation in talent recruitment programs
  • Informal international collaborations
  • Hosting students, researchers, and visitors from outside the US
  • Accepting gifts
  • Traveling abroad
  • Participating in executive and professional activities
  • Mentoring, advising, or tutoring non–MIT-enrolled students
  • Taking a sabbatical or leave of absence from MIT
  • Lectures, teaching engagements, or serving on review panels

2. A guide to Outside Professional Activities (OPA), hosted by the Office of the Provost, clarifies the internal MIT reporting requirements for activities that may create conflicts of interest or commitment. The resource describes MIT’s guidelines and policies on pursuing, discussing, and reporting OPA.

It further outlines considerations on four key topics:

  • External academic appointments
  • Consulting
  • New commercial ventures or start-ups
  • International OPA

As you know, MIT’s OPA reporting process takes place annually in May. In advance of the next cycle, we encourage each of you to review your own portfolio of outside professional activities with attention to this guide.

These resources complement other steps taken, and some that are still in development, to address the recommendations of the MIT China Strategy Group. If you would like additional guidance on any of the topics raised in this letter, please contact


Maria T. Zuber
Vice President for Research

Richard K. Lester
Vice Provost for International Activities