White House officials to visit research universities to discuss intellectual theft

White House staff pose for their official portraits in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Keegan Barber)
White House staff pose for their official portraits in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Keegan Barber)

White House officials will be visiting the campuses of research universities across the country to discuss the potential theft of intellectual property and national security secrets from countries like China, according to an article by The Chronicle of Higher Education. 

Members of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy will be meeting with universities in the next few months to discuss the identity theft issue, which they have been pressuring universities to take more action on, according to a letter sent by the office's director, Kelvin Droegemeier, on Tuesday. 

It was not known if Rutgers University would be one of the institutions visited, and there was no official list of schools that will be visited released with the government's announcement. 

The government’s letter warned about some nations’ “increasingly sophisticated efforts to exploit, influence and undermine our research activities,” according to the article. 

Droegemeier said he would visit colleges to speak to faculty members, according to the article. 

“The faculty would benefit by being part of that conversation,” he said. “That’s really the target audience.”

Drogemeier said he would also like to make sure researchers are aware of the rules regarding the topic of intellectual property and what they mean, according to the article. Universities have had to balance both the government’s warnings about spying and fears that faculty are being targeted or stereotyped due to their ethnicity.

Faculty who collaborate with colleagues in other countries like China have been scrutinized by the government lately. Government-sponsored talent programs that recruit students from China have been looked into as well, according to the article. 

Investigations into faculty behavior with foreign researchers have resulted in letters written by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to Emory University and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center highlighting the behavior of one of their scientists that the agency found suspicious, according to the article. 

The NIH announced that it was investigating more than 50 institutions for behaviors it found questionable, according to the article. 

Yet some researchers have been wrongly accused of spying, which happened at Temple University in 2015, according to the article. The Temple University researchers were charged with sharing information with China before having the same charges dropped later. 

The government’s letter said it would establish guidelines on disclosure requirements for researchers who receive federal funds, develop best practices for academic institutions and highlight ways to identify risky research practices, according to the article. 

“Regardless of where you come from, if you’re involved in research we expect you to follow the rules of research. First of all, we need to make sure you’re aware of them," Droegemeier said.


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