The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the FBI have launched an investigation into foreign scientists who are allegedly stealing biomedical research from institutions across the U.S. Most of the 180 cases across 71 institutions include nationalized American citizens of Chinese descent.
“You could take a dart board with medical colleges with significant research programs and, as far as I can tell, you’d have a 50-50 chance of hitting a school with an active case,” said Ross McKinney Jr., MD, chief scientific officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Researchers have set up labs in China duplicating American research, and others obtained patents in China on work owned by American institutions and funded by the U.S. government, according to the NIH findings. Some NIH-funded scientists also accepted funding from the Chinese government in violation of agency rules. About a dozen scientists have been fired or resigned from research institutions across the U.S. in relation to these investigations.
Officials at MD Anderson, which has investigated five faculty members, said the cases show that the Chinese government has been taking advantage of the U.S. research system, which is based on trust and the free exchange of ideas. However, MD Anderson and Emory University, which fired two ethnically Chinese faculty members for allegedly failing to disclose foreign sources of research funding, have come under fire for what critics say are practices unfairly targeting researchers of Chinese descent.
In our July 2019 issue, ASH Clinical News spoke with Joanne Carney, director of government relations at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and other stakeholders about foreign influences on research integrity and efforts to prevent research espionage.