Last Thursday, June 18, a long-awaited, bipartisan bill to address the federal government’s concerns about “foreign influence” in research, the “Safeguarding American Innovation Act,” was introduced in the Senate. Led by Senators Rob Portman and Tom Carper, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the bill follows extensive effort by the PSI and others in the Congress to better protect U.S. national and economic security by seeking to document and address foreign state efforts, thought to be largely those of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), that may involve direct and indirect attack on basic and other research activities. The bill, the “Safeguarding American Innovation Act” (“Proposed Legislation”), is important for universities, academic medical centers and industry, as it
- authorizes new limits on visiting foreign scientists,
- expands law enforcement authority over grant compliance (making certain grant compliance failures a crime) and federal grant-reporting duties, and
- lowers the reporting threshold for foreign gifts to institutions of higher education.
As of this writing, the Proposed Legislation has fourteen co-sponsors in the Senate, though no companion bill in the House.
Congress, the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other federal agencies have focused in the last several years on exposing the methods and efforts of foreign countries to threaten U.S.-funded research.