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NIH says hundreds of U.S. scientists may have undisclosed ties to China

By David Schwartz
Published: April 26th, 2021

More than 500 U.S. federally funded scientists have been flagged over suspected financial ties with China and other foreign adversaries, according to National Institutes of Health testimony before the U.S. Senate last week.

As of this month, the federal health agency has reached out to 90 institutions that receive government grants, targeting the foreign relationships of 200 researchers. It also has removed 100 scientists from the “NIH ecosystem” through resignation, termination, premature retirements, or internal debarments, according to Michael Lauer, deputy director for extramural research at the NIH.

He says to expect more to come, since action has been limited so far only by “the workload of dealing with a very large number of cases.”

Lauer outlined common scenarios the agency is finding. One involves researchers setting up a lab in China to do the same work for the Chinese regime that U.S. taxpayers are already funding in the United States. In other cases, the researcher may have a business in China that leverages findings from NIH-sponsored research — which he labeled “a clear conflict of interest.” A third scenario is when scientists claim to be dedicating 100% of their time to their U.S.-funded research, “when, in fact, they are spending 50% to 60% of their time in China,” Lauer said.

“So they are lying about how they’re spending their time, and that kind of a blatant lie affects the credibility and the integrity of the entire enterprise.”

The Justice Department has opened dozens of cases against researchers in a bid to cut down on China’s theft of U.S. intellectual property. As if to drive the point home, on the day of the hearing, a math professor at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale was indicted for concealing Chinese government aid and working for a Chinese state university, allegedly defrauding the National Science Foundation of $151,099 in grants. (See article below.)

A few days earlier, a hospital researcher at an Ohio children’s hospital was sentenced to 33 months in prison for selling trade secrets to China. Zhou Yu admitted stealing at least five trade secrets related to exosomes. His co-conspirator was his wife, Chen Li, 48, who also worked as a researcher at another lab in the facility. The couple received funding from Chinese authorities and had a company in China to sell exosome “isolation kits” developed from research data they stole.

“Our enemies can capitalize on the billions of dollars that American taxpayers invest every year to beat us to the punch on the next game-changing technology to save lives or cause unimaginable harm. Because they know it’s easier to get to home base when you steal your way to third,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-SC) said at the hearing.

Burr expressed concern about the lack of a “single entity” tasked with identifying non-compliance with foreign research rule breakers.

Lauer, in response, said universities “are ultimately responsible” as the grant recipient.

Source: The Epoch Times

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