In DepthScience & Security

NIH reveals its formula for tracking foreign influences

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Science  04 Oct 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6461, pp. 19-20
DOI: 10.1126/science.366.6461.19

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  • RE: NIH and Foreign Influences

    This disturbing account of NIH investigations focused on Chinese-American scientists strongly suggests this effort is based on a fundamental misconception. While individuals violating the confidentiality of grant application review or not disclosing support appropriately deserve sanctions, Mervis’ account indicates the primary goal of these investigations is not to safeguard grant application review but rather to inhibit the development of Chinese research capacity. As implied by the quoted remarks from Dr. Michael Lauer, NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research, this is overwhelmingly basic and/or preclinical research. Attempts to restrict this type of work to the United States reflects a major category error. As also implied by Dr. Lauer’s remarks, this kind of research is unlikely to have any near-term commercial value, and very little is likely to lead to useful commercial products. This type of research is a non-excludable, non-rivalrous public good. Everyone benefits from good quality basic-preclinical research, regardless of whether it is performed in Bethesda or Beijing.
    Dr. Lauer is also quoted as expressing concern about “shadow labs,” ostensible Chinese efforts to duplicate NIH sponsored research. Given the relatively poor reproducibility of major findings in biomedical research, this doesn’t seem like a bad development. Indeed, it is more likely that efforts at reduplication will lead to discovery of false positive results than any commercial p...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.