Recent media attention has focused on reported espionage by foreign nations in research laboratories in the United States. U.S. intelligence agencies and Congress are addressing the matter. It has also highlighted important issues that researchers funded by U.S. science agencies, including the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), need to pay attention to.
- Does a research institution outside the United States help fund your research?
- Have you received fees for consulting with an international company?
- Do you have a second laboratory in another country?
- Has a foreign organization paid for your travel to participate in science-related activities?
- Do you have any financial interests with foreign entities?
If you answered YES to any of these questions, you should be reporting the activity to the federal agencies that fund your research. Reporting financial connections is a condition of receiving funding from the federal government. Not only is it the law, but it helps to provide a reasonable expectation that the competition for federal funding is fair and transparent and that federally funded research is free of financial conflicts of interest and foreign interference.
Within the last few days, both the NIH and NSF have distributed notices on these issues. The NIH notice, Financial Conflict of Interest: Investigator Disclosures of Foreign Financial Interests, recaps existing NIH policies. The notice from the NSF, reminds the NSF community about restrictions placed on those funded by the NSF and those who join the NSF as temporary “rotators.” The notice is in the form of a Dear Colleague letter from NSF Director France Córdova.
For background on the current situation, you may wish to read the following news articles:
- The U.S. Is Purging Chinese Cancer Researchers From Top Institutions, Bloomberg Businessweek
- MD Anderson ousts 3 scientists over concerns about Chinese conflicts of interest, Houston Chronicle
- Emory ousts two Chinese American researchers after investigation into foreign ties, Science
- NIH probe of foreign ties has led to undisclosed firings—and refunds from institutions, Science
About the Author:
Kevin M. Wilson serves as Director of Public Policy and Media Relations for The American Society for Cell Biology. He's worked as the Legislative Director for U.S. Congressman Robert Weygand (D-RI) and as a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). He has a BA in Politics and American Government from the Catholic University of America. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org