ACD Working Group on Foreign Influences on Research Integrity
The biomedical research enterprise is subject to risks regarding the security of intellectual property and the integrity of peer review. Knowledge of these risks has shaped our existing policies and practices, but these risks are increasing and new areas of concern have emerged.
America's competitiveness and global standing as a leader in biomedical research continues to be greatly strengthened by the many students, fellows, and principal investigators who come to join the U.S. workforce. While foreign nationals overwhelmingly contribute to enhancing the American research community, some foreign governments have taken advantage of our highly productive and interactive research community by mounting systematic programs to unduly influence and capitalize on NIH-conducted and NIH-supported research activities. This has typically taken the form of providing generous monetary support to targeted investigators, allowing them to conduct research either in U.S.-based laboratories or in foreign-based laboratories, but with expectations that the foreign entity will benefit. While it is possible that such forms of support can be proper if fully disclosed and reviewed, the potential for breaches of long-standing NIH policies and principles is significant, and failure to disclose other support to NIH is a serious violation of NIH policy. Other areas of concern to NIH include:
- Diversion of intellectual property in grant applications or produced by NIH-supported biomedical research to other entities, including other countries; and
- Sharing of confidential information in some instances by peer reviewers with others (including foreign entities) and attempts to influence funding decisions.
These breaches of trust and confidentiality are unacceptable and inconsistent with NIH's guiding principles of scientific excellence, research integrity, and fair competition.
While we depend on the major national security agencies and the Department of Health and Human Services' broad national security efforts to protect our national security interests, NIH and the U.S. biomedical research community at large have a vested interest in the integrity of U.S. biomedical research.
NIH must mitigate these risks to research integrity while preserving the robustness of the biomedical research enterprise. The extraordinary contributions of foreign nationals to American science are indisputable. As just one example, 24% of U.S. Nobel prizes have been awarded to foreign-born scientists. NIH will work with other government agencies and the broader biomedical research community, including NIH-funded institutions and U.S. professional organizations, with the support of this working group, to mitigate foreign influences on research integrity, while maintaining appropriate collaborations with scientists across the globe.
The working group is charged to:
- identify the best approaches for NIH and Universities, Research Institutions, and other Applicant Organizations, to partner to ensure that all sources of research support and all relevant affiliations and financial interests are accurately reported to the NIH
- propose best approaches to facilitate appropriate collaboration with scientists across the globe, while helping to safeguard intellectual property in NIH applications or developed in whole, or in part, with support from the U.S. government
- propose additional steps that NIH might employ to protect the integrity of the peer review process
- carry out these actions in a way that reflects the long tradition of partnership between NIH and grantee institutions, and that emphasizes the compelling value of ongoing honorable participation by foreign nationals in the American scientific enterprise