Reps. Mikey Sherrill (D-N.J.), Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), and Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) May 30 introduced legislation titled the Securing American Science and Technology Act (SASTA, H.R. 3038). The AAMC has joined several members of the higher education and research communities in support of this bill.
According to Rep. Sherrill’s press release, the bill would “[promote] standardization of federal agency approaches to academic espionage while maintaining collaboration and a welcoming environment for foreign talent at our institutions of higher education.”
SASTA would require the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to establish an interagency working group, including representation from over 15 science and security agencies, to better coordinate efforts to prevent future foreign influence, theft, and cyberattacks on the U.S. research enterprise. The bill also would ensure direct stakeholder engagement between federal agencies, academic institutions, nonprofits, industry, and law enforcement through the establishment of a new National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine “Science, Technology, and Security Roundtable.”
The AAMC joined with more than 10 societies and universities in a May 30 letter of support to the bill sponsors for the introduction of SASTA. In the letter, the organizations shared their commitment “to the protection of American innovation from security threats to the U.S. research enterprise” and added, “The Securing American Science and Technology Act (SASTA) takes a proactive and sensible approach to safeguarding federally funded research and development from growing threats of foreign interference, cyberattacks, theft, and espionage.”
Over the past year, there have been increasing concerns about theft by foreign governments of proprietary information and technology from U.S. academic institutions, and other actions that weaken the integrity of the U.S. research system. A working group of the Advisory Committee to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director in December 2018 released a report summarizing concerns for the NIH [see Washington Highlights, Dec. 14, 2018].Examples included U.S.-based investigators who did not disclose foreign support for NIH-funded research, theft of intellectual property, and violation of NIH study sections. In 2018, the NIH alerted more than 50 research institutions of identified irregularities, prompting local investigations that have resulted in several publicized dismissals of faculty [see AAMCNews, May 28].
The Senate Finance Committee will hold a June 5 hearing on the topic of foreign influence in U.S. federally funded research.