Science Committee Discuss Federal Agency Research Security Measures

On February 15, Congress held a Full Committee hearing on “Examining Federal Science Agency Actions to Secure the U.S. Science and Technology Enterprise,” which addressed the balance between protecting the university research community from foreign interference while finding ways to ensure an environment free from bias and discrimination. The session brought together high-ranking officials and experts including Arati Prabhakar, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Dr. Rebecca Keiser, Chief of Research Security Strategy and Policy (NSF), Geri Richmond, Under Secretary for Science and Innovation (DOE), and Dr. Michael Lauer, Deputy Director for Extramural Research (NIH).

The hearing emphasized the need for agencies to create improved disclosure protocols to secure national research security facilities. This is crucial in the global economic competition, particularly with China. Witnesses highlighted the search for guidance in research security measures to protect the nation’s research and development (R&D) and innovation enterprises from foreign threats. NSF was noted for focusing on data security implementations and is in the process of developing an Information Sharing Analysis Center to protect research from inappropriate foreign interference.

There’s a growing concern about adversaries taking pre-publication research and using it for military or civil purposes in adversarial nations. Moreover, the demonization of certain groups within the academic community has led to a chilling effect, impacting economic competitiveness by potentially discouraging valuable international collaboration.

One significant concern raised was the use of “comfort letters” by foreign institutions, which share information with American universities and government agencies that are demonstrably false, intended to mislead. Since 2018, NIH has received allegations involving 600 scientists, with findings showing that over 250 had likely concerns related to foreign intervention. Since the increase of disclosure requirements agencies have noted a substantial decrease in interventions.

This hearing highlighted the agencies’ continued efforts towards striking a delicate balance in protecting the U.S. S&T enterprise against real and potential threats while maintaining an inclusive environment that fosters innovation and collaboration.


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