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Harvard creates new committees to oversee response to foreign research influence

By David Schwartz
Published: November 12th, 2019

Harvard has formed two new oversight committees in response to concerns over potential “academic espionage” at U.S. universities that have been the focus of both NIH and FBI action recently. Dean of Science Christopher W. Stubbs announced the moves at the faculty’s monthly meeting last week.

One committee will review sensitive research projects, and the other is examining policies to ensure the school complies with guidelines set forth by federal funding agencies. According to Stubbs, the new committees were prompted by FBI and NIH investigations into scientists who are allegedly stealing biomedical research from universities and on behalf of foreign governments.

“Harvard has received and responded to inquiries from the NIH about inconsistencies between proposal submissions and faculty activities,” Stubbs said.

According to a New York Times report, more than 70 research institutions are investigating potential cases of intellectual property theft. Almost all of the incidents the NIH and FBI are investigating involve Chinese and Chinese American researchers allegedly sending materials to the Chinese government.

Stubbs said the new committees “complement” the university’s existing administrative structures and help Harvard navigate the “rapidly changing landscape” of federal research funding.

“Academics have lost their jobs, some have been charged with crimes, and tensions are high,” he said.

One of the new committees is tasked with conducting “special” reviews of sensitive collaborations that might pose “elevated compliance risks.” The other committee will recommend changes to Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ procedures in administering federal research grants.

The latter committee, Stubbs reports, has already recommended several steps. In addition to requiring faculty to complete online training centered on grant compliance, the committee recommends mandating that all research proposals be submitted to Harvard’s grant administration system for a “full internal review” at least five days before the grant’s deadline.

Stubbs also asked faculty for their “cooperation” as the Harvard increases its scrutiny and urged them to fully disclose all “external intellectual commitments and partnerships” in grant applications.

Source: The Harvard Crimson

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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