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NSF's Investigations

In its investigations of researchers who may have not disclosed foreign ties, the US National Science Foundation has taken action itself in 16 to 20 cases, Nature News reports. These actions include removing researchers from grants, ending grants, having funds be returned, or barring researchers from receiving future funding, it adds, noting the agency has referred others cases to the Department of Justice.

Lawmakers and funders have been concerned in recent years about intellectual property theft and foreign influence on biomedical research in the US. The National Institutes of Health, for instance, has sent letters asking institutions about researchers who may not have disclosed funding from foreign sources. In all, Michael Lauer, the head of extramural research at NIH, said last month that 54 researchers have resigned or been fired in the wake of its investigations. They have also led to arrests, including the high-profile arrest of Harvard University's Charles Lieber.

NSF's investigations, meanwhile, have led to fewer resignations or dismissals, Nature News reports, noting that is to be expected as NSF is a smaller funding body and often funds work with less obvious commercial applications than NIH.

The NIH investigations have also raised concerns about racism, as most of the researchers targeted have been Chinese or of Chinese ancestry. Jeremy Wu from the Chinese-American group the Committee of 100 tells Nature News that more transparency on NSF's investigations is also needed to gauge whether they are unfairly targeting certain groups.