In DepthU.S. NATIONAL SECURITY

NIH queries on foreign ties rattle universities

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Science  08 Mar 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6431, pp. 1020
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6431.1020

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Summary

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has recently sent letters to dozens of major U.S. research universities asking them to provide information about NIH-funded faculty members who it believes have not disclosed links to foreign governments. Universities are scrambling to respond to the unprecedented queries by NIH, apparently prompted by demands from members of Congress and national security officials that federal agencies increase scrutiny of foreign interactions by U.S.-funded researchers. The goal is to prevent the theft of intellectual property and the transfer of technologies that could threaten U.S. security. But some academic administrators worry the exercise could cast a chill over all types of international scientific collaborations. Another fear is that the inquiry may become a vehicle to impugn the loyalty of any faculty member—and especially any foreign-born scientists—who maintains overseas ties.