Blog Archives

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on FY 2021 Research and Development Budget Request

On February 27, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing to review the Administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget request for research and development (see COSSA’s analysis of the President’s budget request). Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), was the committee’s only witness and discussed the administration’s priorities across federal science agencies.

Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) expressed concern for proposed cuts to research funding at the National Science foundation (NSF), NASA, the Department of Energy, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In her opening statement, she shared that the cuts appear to be driven by an ideology in the administration that “aggressively seeks to undermine faith in science and scientists and to discount expertise at all levels of government and society.” Her fellow Democrats echoed these concerns, particularly around cuts to the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E), the role of OSTP in federal rulemaking, and the prioritization of certain programs at the expense of others within agencies, including human space flight at NASA and computer science at NSF.

Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) commended Dr. Droegemeier for prioritizing the security of U.S. research and research into so-called “industries of the future”— including artificial intelligence and 5G — in the FY 2021 research and development budget. Republicans inquired about the implementation of the Securing American Science and Technology Act and the activities of the Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE). A recording of the hearing, along with Dr. Droegemeier and Chairwoman Johnson’s open statements are available on the Science Committee’s website. Ranking Member Lucas’ opening statement is available on the Science Committee Republican’s website.

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Posted in Issue 5 (March 3), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

NSF Releases Responses to JASON Research Security Report

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.

The full response can be found on the NSF website. Read COSSA’s Hot Topic on research security for more information about the JASON report and other recent research security actions.

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Posted in Issue 5 (March 3), Update, Volume 39 (2020)


In response to a request for information (RFI) from the Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE) (see previous coverage), COSSA submitted a collection of resources produced by its member associations relevant to JCORE’s four primary areas of interest: (1) Research Rigor and Integrity; (2) Coordinating Administrative Requirements for Research; (3) Research Security; and (4) Safe and Inclusive Research Environments. As COSSA’s letter states, “Given [the social sciences’] focus on the human condition across multiple scales, it is not surprising that our sciences have a lot to say about the topics of interest to JCORE.” The document is intended to inform the Trump Administration’s work in these important areas as well as communicate the expertise that already exists within many social and behavioral science fields. The letter is available on COSSA’s website.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

HOT TOPIC: Foreign Interference in the U.S. Research Enterprise & Policy Responses

COSSA has released the latest edition of our HOT TOPIC series, which are featured articles prepared by COSSA staff members offering insights into timely issues important to the social and behavioral science community. This edition, titled Foreign Interference in the U.S. Research Enterprise & Policy Responses, was written by Ben Goodrich.

In recent years, United States federal research agencies have faced growing concerns of reports of U.S. research and intellectual property being stolen, illegally transferred, or tampered with by foreign governments, notably the Chinese government. These agencies have employed a variety of methods to protect research from foreign interference, including commissioning reports for policy recommendations, requesting information from the research community on potential bad actors, issuing clarifying statements on the federal grant application process, and tightening regulations on various parts of the research infrastructure.

However, some of these policies—which affect universities and researchers from all disciplines—have been criticized both for creating a chilling effect on the open and collaborative nature of the research community and for unjustly singling out researchers of Chinese descent.

This analysis details the latest threats of foreign influence on the U.S. research enterprise as well as actions taken across the federal government to address them. As this is a developing story with agencies continuing to develop policies in response, COSSA will be closely monitoring efforts to harmonize agency policies, address concerns of racial bias against Chinese scientists, and protect the open nature of the U.S. research enterprise.

Read on for the full analysis.

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 21), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

December’s Headlines to Feature Deep Dive on Threats to Research Security

headlines bannerCOSSA members are encouraged to sign up for the monthly COSSA Headlines webchat on Thursday December 12, in which COSSA staff will recap the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month and answer participants’ questions. The December chat will feature a deep dive discussion on understanding the threats to U.S. research security with Toby Smith, Vice President for Policy at the Association of American Universities. Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.

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Posted in Update

OSTP Seeks Input on Research Environment

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has issued a request for information (RFI) on the research environment. Comments will be used to inform the work of the Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE), a committee of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). JCORE was established in May 2019 and comprises four subcommittees: (1) Research Rigor and Integrity; (2) Coordinating Administrative Requirements for Research; (3) Research Security; and (4) Safe and Inclusive Research Environments (see previous coverage).

The request asks for information on actions that Federal agencies can take, working in partnership with private industry, academic institutions, and non-profit/philanthropic organizations, to maximize the quality and effectiveness of the American research environment across JCORE’s four main areas. More information on the specific questions JCORE is seeking feedback on are available in the Federal Register notice. Comments are due by 11:59 pm ET on December 23, 2019.

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Posted in Issue 24 (December 10), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Senate Subcommittee Releases Report, Holds Hearing on Securing U.S. Research from Foreign Talent Recruitment Plans

On November 18, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee released a staff report on federal agencies’ efforts to protect the U.S. research enterprise from illegal technology transfer and research espionage occurring through foreign talent recruitment activities such as China’s Thousand Talents Plan. The report offers details of prevention activities employed at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of State, the Department of Commerce (DOC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) as well as a series of recommendations to improve these agencies’ efforts to prevent foreign interference in the U.S. research enterprise. The report can be found on PSI website.

A day later, PSI held a hearing to address the findings of the staff report and to improve upon current federal agency efforts to prevent intellectual property theft and technology transfer through foreign talent recruitment programs. Witnesses included Assistant Director of Counterintelligence at the FBI John Brown, Head of the Office of International Science and Engineering at NSF Rebecca Keiser, Deputy Director for Extramural Research at NIH Michael Lauer, Director of the Office of Science at DOE Christopher Fall, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services at the Bureau of Consular Affairs (BCA) Edward Ramotowski.

PSI Chairman Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE), and other Members questioned the witnesses on the findings of the staff report and on agency knowledge of Chinese efforts to exploit the U.S. research enterprise. Several salient issues were discussed, such as agency efforts to harmonize security infrastructure and policies, ethics concerns over FBI investigations of international students, potential gaps in the visa control process, and raising awareness of security problems among the academic community. Statements from Portman, Carper, and a video recording of the hearing is available on the PSI website.

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Posted in Issue 23 (November 26), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

NIH Evaluates Strategy on Countering Foreign Influence in Research

On September 25, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released three reports addressing efforts to combat the prevalence of foreign influence in research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The OIG reports evaluate three tactics used in NIH’s strategy in securing research from foreign influence in institutional reporting of foreign financial interests and affiliations, reviewing financial conflicts of interest in extramural research, and securing the peer review process from foreign influence. The OIG reports each provide several recommendations to the NIH on how to improve these initiatives.

The strategy comes as a follow up to NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins’ August 2018 letter to over 10,000 institutions expressing concern over foreign influence in research settings. You can find previous  coverage on a Congressional hearing concerning foreign influence at NIH on the COSSA website.

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Posted in Issue 19 (October 1), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

OSTP Outlines Research Security Priorities

In a September 16 letter to the research community, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director Kelvin Droegemeier described several of the office’s priorities and planned activities for protecting the security of the U.S. research enterprise. The letter expresses concern over recent efforts by some foreign powers to “exploit, influence, and undermine our research activities and environments,” and concludes that “United States policies and practices must evolve thoughtfully and appropriately” to guard against such attacks. In particular, the letter notes that talent-recruitment programs sponsored by foreign governments have been at the center of several attempts to exploit U.S. research.

OSTP is seeking to discourage and prevent breaches of research ethics, including: “failure to disclose required information such as foreign funding, unapproved parallel foreign laboratories (so-called shadow labs), affiliations and appointments, and conflicting financial interests,” as well as “conducting undisclosed research for foreign governments or companies on United States agency time or with United States agency funding, diversion of intellectual property or other legal rights, and breaches of contract and confidentiality in or surreptitious gaming of the peer-review process.”

The Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE), a committee of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) established in May 2019, plans to take up these issues. In addition to the Research Security subcommittee, which will focus on foreign-power interference in U.S. research, JCORE also contains subcommittees on Safe and Inclusive Research Environments, Research Rigor and Integrity, and Coordinating Administrative Requirements for Research.

JCORE’s Research Security work will focus on four areas: (1) Coordinating outreach and engagement with federal agencies and other stakeholders to increase awareness of foreign interference in research; (2) Establishing and coordinating disclosure requirements for participation in federally-funded research enterprise (such as the requirements recently circulated by NSF and NIH); (3) Developing best practices for academic research institutions; and (4) Developing methods for identification, assessment, and management of risk in the research enterprise.

OSTP plans to hold meetings at academic institutions over the coming months to further discuss this issue with stakeholders. COSSA will provide more details as they become available.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 17), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

NSF Releases Dear Colleague Letter on Research Protection

The Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) released a Dear Colleague Letter on July 11 summarizing efforts at the agency to address security risks to the U.S. science and engineering enterprise. The letter explains that while international collaboration is still a priority of NSF, they are instituting policies to ensure NSF research is protected from foreign interference and other security threats.

The letter outlines some upcoming and proposed policy changes related to research security. The imminent plans include changes to the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide to include clarifications of reporting requirements for support from NSF, both current and pending, as well as professional appointments. The draft Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide is currently open for comment in the Federal Register. Additionally, the agency is issuing a policy clarifying that NSF personnel and detailees working at the agency through the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (or IPAs) cannot participate in foreign government talent recruitment programs.

The letter also includes a proposal, likely to take effect in January 2020, requiring grantees to use an electronic format for submission of biographical sketches, including disclosure of all appointments.

Lastly, NSF has commissioned the independent scientific advisory group JASON to conduct a study to assess risks and recommend possible practices for NSF and its awardee organizations to achieve the best balance between openness and security of science. More information and the Dear Colleague Letter can be found on the NSF website.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 23), Update, Volume 38 (2019)


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