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Undeclared foreign funding

The US Department of Education is investigating Harvard and Yale universities for failing to declare funding received from foreign governments. According to a statement issued by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Yale failed to report contracts worth US$375 million with foreign institutions, while Harvard lacks appropriate controls over foreign money and has failed to fully report all foreign gifts and contracts, as required by law. The Harvard case has already resulted in an arrest. In January, Charles Lieber, chair of the university’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, was indicted for lying to federal officials. According to the Justice Department, in 2011, Lieber became a “Strategic Scientist” at Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) in China, and between 2012 and 2017 was a contractual participant in the Thousand Talents Plan, the Chinese government’s program to recruit high-level researchers in the USA and Europe. Lieber received US$50,000 a month from China and was given US$1.5 million to establish a research lab at WUT. By law, he should have reported these ties to Harvard and the agencies funding his research in the USA, but he failed to do so. Links between foreign governments and researchers working in the USA have long been a sensitive issue in the country—hiding such relationships is considered misconduct. An investigation carried out by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2019 identified 180 foreign scientists working at American institutions who had not disclosed that they were receiving funding from governments and institutions abroad (see Pesquisa FAPESP issue nº 288).