New Science Research Security rules are being held up in the White House

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The article, written by Jeffrey Mervis on Science.org speaks about how the White House confronts obstacles in implementing a policy aimed at safeguarding U.S. academic research, particularly concerning potential threats from China. Delays persist in finalizing standards initially set by the Trump administration, prompting concerns from university administrators and lawmakers alike. Arati Prabhakar, President Biden’s science adviser, acknowledges the intricate nature of ensuring research security and underscores its enduring importance.

 

The policy, directed at U.S.-funded scientists’ foreign interactions, focuses on mitigating risks while fostering scientific openness. The Biden administration, in building on the Trump directive, tasks the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), led by Prabhakar, with detailing the memorandum. The policy requires more comprehensive reporting, aiming to identify financial conflicts of interest and commitments that might hinder scientists’ work at their home institutions.

 

However, feedback received in response to a March 2023 call for comments raised concerns, particularly regarding the potential administrative burden on institutions, with smaller establishments and those serving minority students facing additional challenges. The Association of American Universities (AAU), representing 71 member institutions, urges consideration of varying risks based on research types and foreign countries. Clarity is sought on who needs to report foreign research interactions and the activities subject to reporting.

 

Lawmakers, expressing bipartisan concerns about the threat from China, emphasize the need to strike a balance between scientific collaboration and national security. Questions from both parties, especially Republicans, touch on issues like waivers for China to import U.S. technology. Concerns are raised about potential unfair targeting of Chinese-born scientists, with Prabhakar assuring that the Biden administration aims to avoid policies fostering xenophobia.

 

The witnesses stress the importance of scientists comprehending the necessity of research security. However, worries persist about the potential chilling effect of stringent regulations on scientific collaboration. Representative Frank Lucas questions the delay in issuing final standards but is assured by Prabhakar that additional authority from Congress is unnecessary. Despite these assurances, the timeline for unveiling the final standards remains uncertain.

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