MD Anderson Cancer Center has dismissed three researchers suspected of violating US National Institutes of Health rules governing the disclosure of foreign ties and the confidentiality of peer review, Science reports.
As Science notes, NIH launched an initiative to look into US government concerns regarding foreign nations, especially China, exploiting US-funded research for their own gain. In August of last year, NIH Director Francis Collins said he had become concerned about the robustness of the biomedical research enterprise in the US and, in March, the agency sent letters to a number of US research institutions to inquire about researchers' potentially undisclosed ties to foreign governments.
According to ABC News, two of the MD Anderson researchers NIH asked the institute about resigned before their termination proceedings moved forward and the third is challenging the dismissal. The Houston Chronicle adds that NIH inquired about five researchers at MD Anderson and that an investigation into a fourth researcher found dismissal was not warranted and one into a fifth is ongoing. "As stewards of taxpayer dollars invested in biomedical research, we have an obligation to follow up" when asked to investigate grant recipients, Peter Pisters, the MD Anderson president, tells the Chronicle.
However, these investigations are raising fears of racial profiling, Science reports, noting that the three researchers were of Chinese ethnicity. "Scientific research depends on the free flow of ideas," Frank Wu, president of the Committee of 100, a Chinese-American organization, tells Science. "Our national interest is best advanced by welcoming people, not by racial stereotyping based on where a person comes from."