NIH Urges Institutions to Report Foreign Collaborations

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) sent a letter to more than 10,000 research institutions on August 20, 2018 expressing concern about “threats to the integrity of U.S. biomedical research” from foreign governments and asked institutions to help curb “unacceptable breaches of trust and confidentiality.” In the letter, NIH Director Francis Collins urged NIH grant applicants and awardees to “disclose all forms of other support and financial interests, including support coming from foreign governments or other foreign entities.”

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Concerns about foreign governments tapping valuable information from U.S. research institutions have been growing. The White House is considering imposing restrictions on researchers from China engaging in sensitive research at universities in the U.S., citing concerns that Chinese researchers may be acquiring American intellectual secrets and sharing them with the Chinese government. Congressional lawmakers also sought stronger oversight of foreign-funded projects on U.S. campuses through an amendment to a recent defense spending bill. The provision was eventually dropped from the bill and replaced by language ordering the Department of Defense to work with universities to examine the risks and benefits of such a measure.