Universities are forging ties with the FBI as US cracks down on foreign influence

Public institutes are responding to allegations of interference in research by foreign governments, especially China.

US universities are forging closer ties with FBI agents, encouraging scientists to disclose foreign sources of research funding, and tightening restrictions on researchers’ travel, according to administrators contacted by Nature.

The new measures follow an unprecedented sweep that began over a year ago, after the US government alleged that certain countries, particularly China, were exploiting the openness of US science for economic gain.

Nature asked research vice-presidents at various public universities — who oversee hundreds of millions of dollars of federally funded science and are key to enforcing relevant policies — what steps their institutes were taking to respond to the government concerns.

The ten responses received reveal broad cooperation with the FBI, including regular meetings and, in one case, hiring a former agent. Other measures include making it easier to report suspicious activity, for example by setting up anonymous phone lines.

But the responses also reveal frustrations. Vice-presidents complained about having to manage demands from competing agencies, and expressed concerns that hasty measures could antagonize or alienate foreign researchers working in the United States.

See the full story at: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00646-9