In November 2019, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations published 150 pages of evidence that the government of China has been systematically, aggressively, clandestinely and strategically stealing from America's scientific research enterprise, exploiting the fact that this enterprise was built on American values of “reciprocity, integrity, merit-based competition, and transparency.”

Consider the case of a senior scientist specializing in nanoscience while allegedly receiving $50,000 per month, plus living expenses, from a Chinese university. Under U.S. law, he had thus far committed no crime, even though he had allegedly hidden his secret agreement with China from his employer. Only when he lied on a federal grant application, according to federal prosecutors, did the U.S. have recourse to arrest him. Meanwhile the university in China is required by law to share any and all information with the government for use in China's national security, including to advance its military.

U.S. employers are often in the dark, completely unaware of their employees' secret relationships with China, and therefore unable to manage the risk these relationships create. Some large technology firms respond with internal policies, but these employers' only available tools are civil litigation. Leaders at scientific entities that do not handle intellectual property, like many universities and research laboratories, have told me that they struggle to implement internal policies without risking losing their talent to competitor organizations that have no such policies.

Scientific research integrity and the free and open sharing of scientific ideas insists on transparency. Foreign researchers immigrate to America because of these ethics, as well as our nation's scientific brainpower and world-leading research facilities. Secret contracts with confidentiality clauses and large cash payments in exchange for access to research conducted in someone else's lab should not be what the concept of reciprocity stands for.

Read the full article about integrity and transparency in scientific sharing by Cortney Weinbaum at Rand.