On March 2, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released the agency’s response to a December 2019 report providing recommendations and best practices for NSF and NSF’s awardee organizations to address research security concerns while maintaining openness and collaboration in research environments. The report, conducted by the independent scientific advisory group JASON, was commissioned by NSF in 2019 in the wake of concerns about foreign governments interfering with or stealing intellectual property and research findings from U.S. research institutions.
The most notable NSF response is the announcement of the appointment of Dr. Rebecca Spyke Keiser to the newly-created position of Chief of Research Security Strategy and Policy. Keiser had previously served as the leader of NSF’s Office of International Science and Engineering and begins her role as Chief of Research Security Strategy and Policy effective March 2020.
NSF also outlined several other agency actions addressing the JASON report’s recommendations:
- NSF has clarified the disclosure requirements of foreign and domestic research support in the revised Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) and now requires the submission of biographical sketches;
- NSF has investigated incidents related to improper affiliations with foreign talent recruitment programs and coordinated with the NSF Office of Inspector General (OIG);
- NSF has reached out to NSF awardee institutions to harmonize practices;
- NSF is using the Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) framework to identify potential risks in research security;
- NSF has initiated training programs in scientific ethics with the assistance from the Association of American Universities (AAU) and Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and will pursue further training led by the new Chief of Research Security Strategy and Policy;
- The National Science Board has reaffirmed NSDD-189, a long-standing policy supporting openness and transparency in fundamental research and discouraging regulations;
- NSF has engaged with intelligence agencies to assess the risks of foreign influence in research while reaffirming the importance of foreign researchers to the U.S. research enterprise;
- NSF has met with colleagues from several foreign countries to discuss research partnerships and intends to engage with foreign research communities at the May 2020 Global Research Council annual meeting in South Africa to promote continued international collaboration; and
- NSF will continue to support programs that foster and develop research talent in the U.S. including Graduate Research Fellowships and the INCLUDES program.