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Bill to Address Foreign Influence

A new US defense bill would establish two groups aimed at combating foreign influence on research, Science reports.

There have been increasing worries regarding foreign threats to the US research enterprise. In August of last year, the National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins said the agency had three particular concerns, including the failure of some researchers to disclose the receipt of money from other organizations, including foreign governments; the diversion of intellectual property, including to foreign countries; and the sharing of confidential peer review information. This has led NIH to ask certain universities to look into some faculty members' foreign ties and then to MD Anderson Cancer Center and Emory University, for instance, dismissing a handful of researchers. All the researchers affected by these investigations have been Chinese or Chinese Americans, raising concerns about bias.

If this new bill becomes law, it would establish two groups, one based at the White House and one at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Science reports. It adds that the White House-based group would coordinate government agencies to fend off cyberattacks, theft, and other attacks on federally funded research, while a roundtable at NASEM would advise the government on ways to limit foreign influence but not undermine international collaborations.

According to Science, lawmakers expect the bill to be passed as early as this week.