COSSA advocates for sustainable federal funding for and widespread use of social and behavioral science research and federal policies that positively impact the conduct of research.
In January 2020, COSSA released a Hot Topic titled “Foreign Interference in the U.S. Research Enterprise & Policy Responses,” which reported on the broad policy concerns about securing the U.S. research enterprise, foreign influence, racial bias against Chinese and Chinese-American citizens, and the wide range of actions in response to these concerns taken by the White House, federal agencies, and Congress. Since the publication of that analysis, the sudden and unprecedented global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the early months of 2020 has had a significant impact on the policy conversations surrounding the security of the U.S. research enterprise. The global community became singularly focused on developing vaccines or other treatments for COVID-19, directing attention away from other science priorities. Furthermore, the pandemic has had other indirect impacts on research security, in some cases exacerbating existing concerns such as discrimination against Chinese citizens, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders, and a chilling effect on international research collaboration.
The following pages revisit the topics discussed earlier in the year and provide updates on activities that have since occurred, including how the global COVID-19 pandemic has affected U.S. research security activities. Readers are encouraged to read the information in the prior report for a more comprehensive look at research security efforts and concerns prior to January 2020.
In recent years, United States federal research agencies have faced growing concerns of reports of U.S. research and intellectual property being stolen, illegally transferred, or tampered with by foreign governments, notably the Chinese government. These agencies have employed a variety of methods to protect research from foreign interference, including commissioning reports for policy recommendations, requesting information from the research community on potential bad actors, issuing clarifying statements on the federal grant application process, and tightening regulations on various parts of the research infrastructure. However, some of these policies—which affect universities and researchers from all disciplines—have been criticized both for creating a chilling effect on the open and collaborative nature of the research community and for unjustly singling out researchers of Chinese descent.
The following pages detail the latest threats of foreign influence on the U.S. research enterprise as well as actions taken across the federal government to address them. As this is a developing story with agencies continuing to develop policies in response, COSSA will be closely monitoring efforts to harmonize agency policies, address concerns of racial bias against Chinese scientists, and protect the open nature of the U.S. research enterprise.