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Bullet policy · Feb 01, 2021

Research Security Directive Issued in Final Days of Trump Administration

On January 14, 2021, President Trump issued a National Security Presidential Memorandum offering guidance to federal agencies, universities, and researchers on how to protect the U.S. research enterprise from foreign interference while still allowing for open and collaborative international science.

The memo standardizes requirements for disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and of commitment from individuals “with significant influence on America’s R&D enterprise.” It also prohibits federal officials from participating in talent recruitment programs sponsored by foreign governments, requires federal agency personnel who allocate R&D funding to receive training on research security, requires research institutions to establish and operate research security programs, and orders agencies to share information about actors who have demonstrated “an intent to threaten research security and integrity.”

Furthermore, the memo directs the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security to “ensure that vetting processes for foreign students and researchers reflect the changing nature of the risks to the U.S. research enterprise while also promoting and protecting international R&D collaboration with foreign allies and partners.”

According to a report by Science Insider, some in the U.S. research community view this memo as a road map for Biden. “I don’t know how to read the political tea leaves, but right now I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Mary Millsaps, Director of Research Information Assurance at Purdue University. “I think it sets a common framework for the next round of discussions.” University officials have indicated that they would like to see the Biden Administration draw from this guidance when developing their broader approach to dealing with China.