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Organizations Pitch for Balance Between Science Enterprise, National Security

A group of nearly 60 science, engineering and international education organizations has raised concerns over certain government policies that are harming the scientific enterprise.

The organizations wrote a joint letter to federal science agencies, including NSF, NIH, and OSTP, and called for maintaining a balance between an openly collaborative scientific environment and protecting the country’s economic and national security.

They fear that scientists, both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals who properly follow codes of conduct and regulations, could be targeted in response to misconduct and illegal actions of others.

“Our organizations and members are witnessing an escalating concern among U.S. and international scientists that new policies and procedures under consideration to minimize security risks will have the unintended effect of harming the scientific enterprise,” the letter reads.

The letter urged agencies to seek inputs of science and engineering community and consider the impact on scientific enterprise and on individual scientists while taking any action. They also urged Congress and the Executive Branch to ensure a welcoming environment for researchers from across the world.

According to an NPR report, over the last one year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) paid visits to nearly 10 research universities across the nation advising them to monitor students coming from selected Chinese research universities and companies.

In May, five Republicans introduced a bill to prohibit students from receiving student or research visas to the U.S. who are employed or sponsored by institutions linked with the Chinese military.

The legislation would require the Trump administration to develop a list of scientific and engineering institutions affiliated with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to ensure that U.S. universities are not sharing sensitive information with China’s military.

Another bill introduced in July called for initiating thorough background screenings of research students from China, Russia, and Iran who wish to participate in “sensitive research projects.”

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