My colleague and friend T, sent me this link to a Jeff Mervis piece in SCIENCE. Apparently 54 scientists have lost their jobs as a result of essentially hiding their connections to China while taking funding from the NIH. As with other funding compliance issues (for example protection of human subjects), violations can be career-enders. I am quite sure that other US funding agencies are taking a close look at their PI’s also.
The key issue here for me is not declaring a conflict of interest. If they had, then if I were on the enforcement side of the equation, I’d be looking at ways to manage that conflict. So if I were to hand out advice, it’d be to disclose as much as you possibly can to a funder all the time about anything that might have questionable optics. I suspect these 54 individuals would still be gainfully employed if that had pursued that approach.
That said, I’m disturbed by the implied national distrust of Asian scientists. The use of ethnic background as a trigger for suspicion has a long and sordid history, both here in the US and around the globe.
I’m also saddened by the de-coupling that’s occurring in science collaboration between nations–particularly between the US and China. That’ll be a loss for everyone because the really big science questions can’t be solved in isolation–Manhattan Project not withstanding.