Congress Set to Form Groups to Protect US Research Security
Congress Set to Form Groups to Protect US Research Security

Congress Set to Form Groups to Protect US Research Security

The National Defense Authorization Act calls for a new task force and roundtable to limit foreign government involvement in federally funded research.

Emily Makowski
Dec 11, 2019

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Congress is expected to approve an annual defense bill as early as this week that would create two federal bodies aimed at preventing foreign government influence in scientific research. The final version of the bill, called the National Defense Authorization Act, was released Monday (December 9), according to a Senate press release.

One group established by the act would be a White House task force that brings government agencies together to defend federal research against cyberattacks and theft by foreign governments. The other group would be a roundtable made up of academics, government officials, and industry workers organized by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to advise the government on national security while protecting international research efforts.

The legislation comes after a government crackdown on researchers who have shared confidential material or failed to disclose relationships with foreign governments. In some cases, universities have fired researchers, at least two of whom are facing criminal charges, reports Science.

See “US-China Tensions Leave Some Researchers on Edge

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate drafted related legislation earlier this year that did not move forward, but much of it was incorporated into the new bill. Some scientists felt that the Senate version, which would have called for a confidential registry of researchers who violated disclosure rules, went too far, reports Science. The current bill is closer to what was drafted in the House, which “is great news,” Tobin Smith, vice president for policy at the Association of American Universities in Washington, DC, tells Science

Emily Makowski is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at emakowski@the-scientist.com.