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August 31, 2018

NIH investigating whether foreign countries influenced NIH-funded research

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    NIH Director Francis Collins last week announced the agency is investigating whether researchers with NIH grants failed to disclose financial contributions from foreign countries.

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    Announcement details

    During a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing, Collins said NIH had sent letters to six institutions with NIH grants to investigate whether researchers had failed to disclose grants they received from other entities, including foreign governments. He said, "We are concerned about circumstances where people have intentionally been deceptive about those connections—with an intention then to divert intellectual property or perhaps to use their access to peer review materials to ship them overseas, which would be a very bad thing to do."

    NIH in a release said it is specifically concerned that researchers at NIH-funded institutions have:

    • Diverted intellectual property included in NIH grants or produced with NIH support to other entities, including foreign countries;
    • Failed to disclose substantial contributions received from other organizations, such as foreign governments; and
    • Shared confidential information with others entities—or otherwise attempted to influence NIH funding decisions.

    Collins said NIH has launched a working group to investigate the concerns. The group, which is part of Collins' advisory committee, will identify methods to:

    • Improve the accuracy of reports submitted by researchers regarding their affiliations, financial interests, and support;
    • Protect the integrity of peer review; and
    • Reduce the risk to intellectual property security.

    Separately, Collins on Wednesday sent about 10,000 letters to institutions with NIH grants to encourage the institutions to review their records for possible instances of misconduct.


    Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) during the hearing said, "If there are some bad actors who are attempting to influence NIH-funded research, we want to know about it and we want to know what authority [is needed] to deal with it" (Facher, STAT News, 8/23; McIntire, CQ Health, 8/23 [subscription required]).


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