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About Foreign Interference

Learn about U.S. government concerns related to inappropriate interference by foreign governments and institutions over federally funded research. Read about real case studies.

While the overwhelming majority of researchers participating on NIH grants, whether U.S. or foreign-born, are honest, hard-working contributors to the advancement of knowledge that benefits us all, the U.S. government has ongoing concerns about inappropriate interference by foreign governments over federally funded research. In August 2018, the NIH Director issued a statement about incidents that violate core principles and threaten the integrity and academic competitiveness of U.S. biomedical research and innovation.

Types of Problems

Since NIH started working in 2016 on undue foreign interference in NIH-funded research, we have become aware of three types of problems:

  • Undisclosed sources of foreign research support which has led to NIH making ill-informed funding decisions. These sources of support include undisclosed foreign employment, undisclosed foreign talent recruitment awards, and undisclosed foreign research grants. We have seen cases in which scientists' misrepresentations led to NIH funding duplicative projects or projects compromised by conflicts of commitment. Here is one example Link to External Site.
  • Undisclosed conflicts of interest which has led to NIH overseeing awards that were inadequately managed for prevention of bias. In the example referenced above, the scientist had undisclosed positions and equity interest in foreign companies that should have been subject to a conflict-of-interest plan. Had NIH been aware, NIH would have most certainly not funded the grants, or would have taken other actions to protect the grant.
  • Violations of peer review integrity rules. For example, one scientist sent confidential NIH grant applications to scientists in China Link to External Site, even though he had signed an attestation Link to External Site that he would not share any peer review materials with anyone

In some cases, we refer allegations to OIG for further investigation. Criminal or civil complaints have led to multiple convictions false claims settlements.

Individuals violating laws & policies represent a small proportion of scientists working in U.S. institutions. We must ensure that our responses to this issue do not create a hostile environment for colleagues who are deeply dedicated to advancing human health.