Research Security

The House passed the America COMPETES Act of 2022 today on a nearly party-line vote that foreshadows challenges the House and Senate may face in crafting a compromise bill capable of passing both chambers.

The House has revealed its response to the landmark innovation policy package the Senate passed last year, a major step toward negotiating a compromise version. However, there are a host of thorny policy disagreements yet to be resolved.

The Justice Department is continuing to backtrack in bringing cases against academic researchers for allegedly concealing ties to Chinese entities. Meanwhile, surveys suggest that efforts by the department and science agencies to crack down on disclosure policy violations have led to widespread anxiety among researchers.

A long-anticipated guidance document released by the White House today aims to standardize implementation of research security policies across federal science agencies, including what categories of information scientists will be required to report when applying for grants.

Science and technology provisions included in Congress’ latest defense policy update reflect lawmakers ongoing interest in accelerating the adoption of emerging technologies; advancing specific technology categories such as quantum computing, microelectronics, and biotechnology; and streamlining collaboration between the Defense Department and extramural researchers.

The House-passed version of Congress' annual defense policy legislation includes a government-wide ban on federal research grantees participating in “malign” talent recruitment programs supported by China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The Senate has advanced a more expansive version of the restriction through separate legislation.

A federal judge has acquitted nanotechnologist Anming Hu on charges that he defrauded NASA by failing to disclose contracts with a Chinese academic institution. The judge found Department of Justice prosecutors presented unconvincing evidence of malign intent, echoing broader criticisms that many DOJ ‘China Initiative’ cases are ill-founded.

Reps. Judy Chu (D-CA) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) recently held a roundtable to highlight concerns that federal efforts to combat alleged attempts by the Chinese government to exploit the U.S. research system are leading to false accusations and racial profiling.

The Senate is considering major expansions to research security policy as part of debate on the Endless Frontier Act, including a proposal to empower the government to block universities from accepting certain foreign gifts and contracts.

Federal agencies are expanding disclosure requirements for the scientists they fund in response to a new research security policy from the White House, but are facing pushback from university groups concerned about the scope of information sought.