Today Science published our letter “Safeguarding integrity and collaborations,” which summarizes our perspectives on NIH efforts to address long-standing foreign interference threats, many stemming from foreign malign talent recruitment programs. We are grateful to Science for publishing our letter and for endorsing our efforts to “talk more openly.”
We described our concerns in this venue on July 8, 2020; we have also assembled a content-rich foreign interference web site which includes case studies, disclosure requirements, processes for handling allegations, data, and a compilation of notices, statements, and reports.
The main points we make in our letter are:
- NIH began addressing foreign interference concerns in May 2016, long before the Department of Justice launched its entirely separate “China Initiative.”
- We understand concerns about racial, ethnic, or political targeting. The disproportionate number of cases (which altogether account for < 1% of all NIH-funded principal investigators) linked to China likely stem from the extensive reach of Chinese talent recruitment programs, which explicitly target ethnic Chinese scientists.
- There should be no conflict between rigorous integrity oversight and international collaborations. This is a false dichotomy. As we write, “Proper collaborations do not entail stealth employment, duplicative funding, undisclosed financial conflicts of interest, or the repeated recitation of lies to institutional or government officials.” These behaviors, which deny funding to scientists who act with integrity, have often occurred at the instigation of foreign talent recruitment programs.
I encourage those of you who are interested in learning more to read the letter and to look at our web site. We are posting a longer version of our essay as well as a summary sheet that includes general principles, case studies, information about select publicly known cases, and findings of others (Congress, Office of the Inspector General, Government Accountability Office) who have scrutinized our work. We are continuing to work closely with Federal government colleagues to, as we write, “envision a framework that secures trust and integrity while enhancing all that robust international collaborations have to offer.”