NSF Releases Report on Fundamental Research Security
NSF Releases Report on Fundamental Research Security

December 2019

On December 11, the National Science Foundation (NSF) issued a commissioned independent study from JASON on research security. The report provides recommendations to protect the openness of fundamental research while addressing concerns regarding national security. JASON consists of approximately 50 academics with expertise in national security issues and provides independent analysis to policymakers and government agencies.

Over the past two years, foreign influence on the U.S. scientific enterprise has emerged as a concern, with reports of intellectual property theft and nondisclosures of foreign financial support from researchers, particularly focused on China.

The JASON report emphasizes the important role of foreign-born scientists who study and work in the United States in producing research that has advanced science, technology, and engineering, in addition to the long-standing commitment that the United States has to open science.

The report includes nine recommendations to enhance research integrity while ensuring that NSF maintains its “core values of openness, excellence, and fairness.” Among these are:

  • Research integrity should be expanded to include full disclosure of commitments and actual or potential conflicts of interest.
  • Failures to disclose commitments and actual or potential conflicts of interest should be investigated and adjudicated by the relevant office of the NSF and by universities as presumptive violations of research integrity, with consequences similar to those currently in place for scientific misconduct.
  • Education and training in scientific ethics at universities and other institutions performing fundamental research should be expanded beyond traditional research integrity issues to include information and examples covering conflicts of interest and commitment.
  • NSF should engage with intelligence agencies and law enforcement to communicate to academic leadership and faculty an evidence-based description of the scale and scope of problems posed by foreign influence in fundamental research, as well as to communicate to other government agencies the critical importance of foreign researchers and collaborations to U.S. fundamental research.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE) included several questions on research security and conflict-of-interest disclosure in its Request for Information on the American Research Environment.

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