National Science Foundation outlines its efforts to prevent research espionage ?>

National Science Foundation outlines its efforts to prevent research espionage

National Science Foundation Director France Córdova released a dear colleague letter on July 11 outlining the agency’s activities to stave off attempts from foreign countries to disrupt and steal taxpayer-funded research and intellectual property. 

The letter reaffirms the integral role that international scientists, trainees and collaborative activities play in supporting the nation’s scientific enterprise.  It also clarifies that the agency’s new measures are a direct response to increased threats on U.S. research and development, stating that while the agency’s values have remained the same,  “what has changed is the scope and sophistication of the activities threatening our community.” 

Here’s what Córdova said the agency has done, is doing and will do to address these threats:

  • NSF rotators, experts who work at the agency as temporary program directors, now must be U.S. citizens or have active applications for citizenship.
  • The agency clarified its proposal disclosure requirements and updated reporting requirements in the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide for senior project personnel.
  • The agency will require electronic submissions of biographical sketches, employment disclosures, and current and pending financial support information by January. 
  • The agency has commissioned JASON, an independent scientific advisory group, to perform risk management and make recommendations to help keep NSF-funded science open and secure. 
  • The agency has prohibited both permanent and temporary personnel from participating in foreign talent-recruitment programs.

The recent attention paid to foreign interference on taxpayer-funded research also has brought about major changes elsewhere in the federal government.  The Department of Energy has increased oversight and personnel restrictions on scientific facilities, and other agencies have begun directly notifying academic institutions to investigate any ties their researchers have with foreign entities.

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology acknowledges the importance of safeguarding taxpayer-funded research and protecting domestic intellectual property that has resulted from research.  We, however, implore federal officials to consider the unintended consequences that may result from the implementation of policies that signal a more restrictive and xenophobic U.S. research enterprise.  In light of divisive rhetoric during the 2016 presidential election, the ASBMB released a statement reaffirming its commitment to diversity and inclusion.  Read the full statement here

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Are you affected by policy changes that address foreign influence and espionage? Has it affected your research and those around you? Contact us at and tell your story.

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