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Foreign Influence Cases at NSF

The inspector general of the US National Science Foundation says the office is straining under the number of investigations into allegations of foreign influence, Science reports.

It adds that Allison Lerner, the inspector general, told a US House of Representatives science committee that such cases — which first came to office's attention in 2017 and have only increased — now make up more than 60 percent of its caseload. This, Science estimates, likely translates to about 80 open investigations.

Lerner noted, according to Science, that NSF has recovered $7.9 million from about two dozen grant recipients who violated agency disclosure policies. It notes that all but one case involved a researcher with ties to China.

Science adds that the National Institutes of Health has been at the forefront of the China Initiative, a program aimed at rooting out economic espionage, and has uncovered hundreds of researchers who may have violated disclosure rules. Critics, however, have called the initiative racist, as it focuses on Chinese or Chinese-American researchers and say that rather than strengthening US research, it is undermining it. Additionally, as the Wall Street Journal has reported, many cases caught up in the initiative have fallen apart. A former University of Tennessee professor was recently acquitted of charges connected to allegations he hid ties to a Chinese university.