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A letter published in Science Thursday from several groups of Chinese or Chinese American scientists registers concerns about what the writers describe as “the recent political rhetoric and policies that single out students and scholars of Chinese descent working in the United States as threats to U.S. national interests.”

The letter from the Society of Chinese Bioscientists in America, the Chinese American Hematologist and Oncologist Network, and the Chinese Biological Investigators Society argues that some recommendations of a working group recently convened by the National Institutes of Health on the topic of foreign influences on research integrity “could target collaborations if implemented with bias. For example, NIH recommends fostering 'trusted relationships' with foreign partners but does not specify whether the trust must be established through official channels. NIH also suggests more disclosure requirements for foreign collaborators than domestic colleagues, which could hinder collaborations.”

The letter also raises concerns about several high-profile cases in which Chinese American scientists were wrongfully accused of spying, and about new visa restrictions targeting Chinese scientists. “It is our sincere hope that these actions, which we believe amount to racial profiling, will stop immediately and that increased security measures are not used to tarnish law-abiding scientists and limit normal and productive scientific exchanges,” the letter states.

In a response letter, Francis S. Collins, the director of the NIH, and other top agency officials said the NIH “greatly values scientists of Chinese descent as members of the American biomedical research enterprise … The vast majority of Chinese scientists working in America are honorable, conscientious and dedicated to the cause of expanding knowledge for the betterment of humankind,” Collins wrote.

“Unfortunately, instances have recently come to light where certain scientists, including some with links to foreign institutions and/or governments, have violated the honor-based systems and practices of the American research enterprise,” Collins's letter continues. “Convened to address the issue, the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director working group carefully considered how to ensure fairness of the grant process and intellectual property principles, while seeking to minimize jeopardy to innocent foreign nationals and important international collaborations. The working group recommendations apply to all foreign scientists, not just those of Chinese descent.”

“We are determined to maintain the integrity of the NIH research enterprise, but we are also deeply concerned about the issues raised by these three societies. NIH is committed to avoiding overreaction, stigmatization, harassment and profiling. We will use our influence and bully pulpit as necessary to speak out against such prejudicial actions, for which there is no place in the biomedical research community.”