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Senate Subcommittee Outlines China’s Threat to US Research

Federal agencies in the United States aren’t well prepared to stop the stealing of intellectual property and research conducted in its higher education institutes, a latest Senate subcommittee report has revealed.

Titled “Threats to the U.S. Research Enterprise: China’s Talent Recruitment Plans,” the report runs into more than 100 pages and alleges China of using its Thousand Talents Plan (TTP) program to target U.S.-based researchers and scientists who focus on or have access to cutting-edge research and technology.

The report alleges TTP members of receiving both U.S. grants and Chinese grants for similar research and establishing “shadow labs” in China to conduct parallel research.

“U.S. government agencies also discovered that some TTP members used their access to research information to provide their Chinese employer with important information on early stage research,” the report read.

In May, Emory University fired two of its professors for failing to disclose funding from and ties to Chinese institutions. The school shut down its laboratory after the National Institutes of Health (NIH) flagged their financial ties with Chinese institutions.

The Senate subcommittee attributes the growing Chinese interest in research and technology to its set goals of becoming an “innovative country” by 2020 and a science and technology world leader by 2050.

The report found grant-making agencies like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health lacking standards and coordination, thus complicating the effective grant oversight of the more than $150 billion in U.S. funding awarded annually for research and development.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was found too slow to respond to the “threat of the Chinese talent [recruitment] plans.” The agency is yet to develop any effective strategy to warn universities, government laboratories, and the broader public of the risks of foreign talent recruitment plans.

The subcommittee called on Federal agencies to develop a comprehensive strategy to combat both illegal and extralegal transfers of U.S. intellectual capital and sough declassifying and dissemination of more information on foreign talent recruitment plans.

It also called on grant-making agencies to coordinate the grant proposal process and standardize reporting requirements for disclosing all foreign conflicts of interest, conflicts of commitment, and all outside and foreign support.

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