54 Scientists Lose Jobs After NIH Investigation into Foreign Funding

As part of the ongoing National Institutes of Health (NIH) investigation into foreign influence on U.S. research, 54 scientists have resigned or been fired from their roles as a result of failure to disclose financial ties to foreign governments. The investigation, led by NIH’s Deputy Director of Extramural Research Michael Lauer, MD, targeted 189 scientists across 87 research institutions beginning in August 2018.

Nearly all of the scientists in question (93%) hid funding from a Chinese institution. Around three-quarters of the scientists under investigation were recipients of at least one active NIH grant, totaling 285 active grants, or $164 million in funding.

A report on Dr. Lauer’s findings showed that 70% of the researchers under investigation had failed to disclose the receipt of a foreign grant, while 54% had failed to disclose participation in a foreign talent program. Nine percent hid ties to a foreign company and 4% possessed an undisclosed foreign patent.

An additional 5% of cases involved violations of the NIH’s peer review system. More than half of the scientists being reviewed were NIH peer reviewers in the past 2 years, and 77 scientists have been banned from further participation thus far.

According to Dr. Lauer, there are 399 scientists “of possible concern,” and the FBI has singled out 30% of them for further investigation. An additional 44 researchers have been flagged by their own institutions.

Source: Science, June 12, 2020.