Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) has introduced legislation (S.1879) that would require students from China, Iran, and Russia to undergo background screening prior to participating in “sensitive research projects.”
Under the “Protect Our Universities Act of 2019,” an interagency task force led by the Department of Homeland Security would be responsible for maintaining a list of sensitive research projects funded by government agencies. According to Senator Hawley, American universities are “key targets of espionage and intellectual property theft by not only China, but Russia and Iran.”
A different measure (H.R. 3038) that also tackles academic espionage was introduced in the House by Representative Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) and is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers. The bill would establish a roundtable at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and an interagency working group within the White House, to serve as platforms for discussions among stakeholders on how to address issues of foreign influence on science and academic espionage. The forums are intended to help to identify practical steps that universities and research funders can take to protect intellectual property without hampering scientific collaboration.