Last August, NIH Director Francis Collins said he had become concerned about threats to biomedical research in the US, including the failure of some researchers given NIH grants to disclose their ties or receipt of funding from foreign organizations. This led the agency in March to send letters to some institutions to inquire about their researchers' potential undisclosed ties to foreign governments. In turn, this led MD Anderson Cancer Center and Emory University to dismiss researchers who had failed to disclose ties to China.
Michael Lauer, who leads NIH's extramural research program, tells Science that there have been additional faculty members who have been fired and grant funds returned to NIH outside the public eye.
Science notes that the effort has been criticized as unfairly targeting Chinese-born researchers, particularly individuals participating in China's Thousand Talents program that provides funding to US-based researchers to set up labs at Chinese institutions.
Lauer says he has no problem with researchers taking part in such initiatives. "Thousand Talents is not a threat [to the United States]," he tells Science. "It's not the specific conduct we are focusing on, it's the failure to disclose it."