NIH Investigating Over 500 Federally Funded Scientists for Foreign, China Ties

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) told the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Thursday that more than 500 federally funded scientists are currently under investigation for possible ties to China and other foreign powers.

At a committee hearing on protecting American biomedical research from foreign influence, NIH officials testified they are having trouble keeping up with hundreds of cases of potential foreign influence, especially from China. 

According to NIH Deputy Director for Intramural Research Dr. Michael S. Lauer, more than 90 percent of the scientists investigated last year had received some form of support from China. Chinese espionage operations have targeted virtually every corner of American biological and medical research.

The most recent high profile influence cases include Southern Illinois University-Carbondale Professor Mingqing Xiao, a 20-year veteran of the mathematics department charged with wire fraud on Wednesday for concealing funding from the Chinese government, and former Nationwide Children’s Hospital Research Institute employee Yu Zhou, sentenced to 33 months in prison and payment of $2.6 million in restitution on Monday for conspiring to steal trade secrets on behalf of China.

Testimony at the hearing was keenly sensitive to the racial dimension of these espionage cases, as NIH officials hasten to point out that many subjects of Chinese espionage investigations are not ethnically Chinese.

NIH also noted that separating illegal foreign influence from relatively benign funding and research cooperation is difficult and time-consuming work for investigators. They stressed the importance of international collaboration for scientific research while also noting the danger that such collaborative efforts can become recruiting grounds for espionage.

Candice Wright, acting director of science and technology for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), said:

” We certainly reached out to the university community and talked a lot with principal investigators as well as administrators, and one of the things that we heard certainly is the need for more information sharing, the need for more training, more guidance, particularly in terms of identifying foreign talent recruitment programs.”

“We heard from certainly a number of the principal investigators that many of them either were not aware of foreign talent recruitment programs or just simply didn’t even know how they would go about identifying such programs,” Wright added.

The most notorious of those recruitment programs is China’s Thousand Talents Plan, which connected thousands of foreign scientists with the Chinese government and has been linked to many successful prosecutions for intellectual property theft. The FBI has warned American universities about the Thousand Talents Plan and hundreds of other Chinese recruitment programs.

Ranking Republican committee member Sen. Richard Burr warned of “a concerted effort from those in China, backed by their government, to bring back anything they can learn, store or steal.”

Burr said there is currently no “single entity” in the U.S. government that concentrates on finding false data in funding applications or other “violations of the rules.” Instead, he said the system seems to wait for law enforcement to uncover violations after the fact because universities and research institutions are unclear about their responsibilities for vetting employees and foreign collaborators.

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Posted by Bekah Lyons

"The simple step of a courageous individual is to not take part in the lie. One word of truth outweighs the world." Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I was born and raised in the enigma known as "The Big Easy." There, rooted along the banks of the great Mississippi River between the creeping bayou and Lake Pontchartrain, I was conscripted on all things pertaining to human nature.  I am the quintessential southern woman, that is to say, I defy most could never accurately define what that label truly represents.  Brined below sea level where one respects; the haunts lingering about, the force of storm surge, the ethos of Mardi Gras, and the sanctity of generational family-I know what it is to belong to an organically diverse culture.

Early on in life, my career path serpentined and led to brief stints of living abroad in Europe as I indulged my passions for painting, musical theater, and the culinary arts. My young experiences evolved my purpose and honed my intuitive skills and I became a Medical Professional specializing in mental health with a focus on child/adolescent needs. After living decades in NOLA, and after hurricane  Katrina unearthed the realities of modern-day inner cities, I made the pivotal decision to relocate to where my family and I spent our summers in a quest to find security and civility in my life.

High up on one of the "grandfather mountains" I now perch in a Smoky mountain community in East Tennessee. Although, I would not trade my formative years in Louisiana, unfortunately,  that era of  America  is  no longer obtainable in the times we live - changing course was the best decision "Evah!"

I am a warrior  for freedom and truth , steeped in my ancestral history ,I am constantly reminded that stillness and introspection expands the mind and heart to possess a more nuanced understanding of all things in our internal and external world. We are all destined to bash ourselves against the rotted cultural rocks of humanity's unraveling until we recognize that a shared moral tone is essential for a free society. A healthy culture is one comprised of many unique people who offer shading and depth to the experience of living, yet all choose to accept basic truths that bind us all together-a societal moral tone. Intolerance  , censorship, intersectionality, cancel culture, apathy ,and ignorance will only groom oppression and tyranny.  Critical thought, differentiation, and dissent is your individual right granted not by government -and must always be protected, championed, and defended.

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