Monday 26 April 2021

Balancing Security Concerning University Research and Anti-Asian Sentiment in the United States: U.S. Senate Hearings

On April 22, 2021, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held hearings on “Protecting U.S. Biomedical Research:  Efforts to Prevent Undue Foreign Influence.”  The Committee heard testimony from representatives from various governmental entities, including the National Institutes of Health [NIH] and the Government Accounting Office.  In written testimony, Dr. Michael Lauer, Deputy Director for Extramural Research at the NIH, explored the tension between balancing security and very serious anti-Asian sentiment in the United States.  The context involves the attempts by governments to take advantage of the open collaboration amongst international researchers in attempting to address biomedical crises.  Notably, Dr. Lauer pointed to three issues confronted by the NIH concerning security and biomedical research:

1) failure by some researchers at NIH‐funded institutions to disclose substantial contributions of resources from other organizations, including foreign governments and businesses, which threatens to distort decisions about the appropriate use of NIH funds and accurate evaluation of commitment of effort to US‐supported research; 2) diversion of proprietary information included in grant applications or produced by NIH‐ supported biomedical research to other entities, including other countries; and 3) failure by some peer reviewers to keep information in grant applications confidential; including, in some instances, disclosure to foreign entities or other attempts to influence funding decisions.

Dr. Lauer raises attempts by the NIH to address these issues, including cybersecurity measures.  Importantly, he states that the NIH has contacted over 90 awardee institutions and over 900 scientists raising potential serious concerns.  Dr. Lauer also raised potential actions that can be taken by the NIH:

Terminations or suspensions of scientists who have engaged in egregious violations of NIH grant terms and conditions and institutional policies. · Interventions to address previously un‐reported affiliations with foreign institutions. · Relinquishment or refund of NIH funds.· Prohibition of certain individuals from serving as investigators on NIH grants. · Outreach to FBI for assistance. · Discovery (through acquisition of certain foreign grants and contracts) of overlapping or duplicative work, or conflicts in stating committed effort to research projects. This discovery has led to NIH suspensions of active grants as appropriate. · Efforts to raise awareness among institutional faculty about government and institutional policies dealing with foreign affiliations and relationships (see, for example, the Penn State web site).

In addressing concerns with anti-Asian violence in the United States, Dr. Lauer states, in part:

We must ensure that our responses to this issue do not create a hostile environment for colleagues who are deeply dedicated to advancing human health through scientific inquiry. We cannot afford to reject brilliant minds working honestly and collaboratively to provide hope and healing to millions around the world.

Dr. Lauer’s testimony can be found, here.  The difficulty, of course, is maintaining security while at the same time fostering an open and collaborative environment wherein research can continue to flourish.  It will be interesting to see how this develops.  The COVID-19 global pandemic has decreased human movement throughout the world likely increasing the transfer of information through digital networks and resulting in even greater importance of the security of networks.  At the same time, as COVID-19 eases eventually (and hopefully), how will the United States ensure that foreign researchers and entrepreneurs, particularly from China, will feel welcome attending university and working in the United States.  Notably, the U.S. Senate recently passed legislation, almost unanimously (94-1 – only Senator Josh Hawley voting against it), addressing anti-Asian hate crimes. 

Tuesday 20 April 2021

Free Event: "IP Strategy for FinTech Start-ups and SMEs"

Dr. Janice Denoncourt, Associate Professor at Nottingham Law School, has let us know about an exciting upcoming event titled, “IP Strategy for FinTech Start-ups and SMEs.” The details are below:

On behalf of Nottingham Law School's Intellectual Property Research Group, the Board of the Intellectual Property Awareness Network (IPAN) and the UK Intellectual Property Office,
I am delighted to inform you that we will be celebrating World IP Day (26 April) this year on a subject where the UK is leading innovation in Financial Technologies (Fintech). In this fast-moving financial frontier, we also need to develop a greater understanding of the importance of IP, particularly for Start-Ups and SMEs.

This online event titled IP Strategy for FinTech Start-ups & SMEs will take place on Monday, 26 April 2021, from 18:00 to 19:30 BST.

Our event in the UK links in with the WIPO 2021 World IP Day campaign, which shines a light on the critical role of SMEs in the economy and how they can use IP rights to build
more competitive and resilient businesses.

IPAN's John Ogier will be chairing the discussion by our panel of industry, law and university specialists who will explore trends in FinTech and IP rights protection and strategy, followed
by a Q&A panel discussion aimed at FinTech entrepreneurs.

The Panel will comprise:

- Alessandro Hatami, Founder of advisory firm Pacemakers
- Jane Lambert, Founder of NIPC Law and Barrister practising in IP and technology
- Dr Fernando Da Cruz Vasconcellos - Director of Valuation Consulting
- Professor Xuan-Thao Nguyen - Director of IP and Innovation, Indiana University
- Dr Janice Denoncourt Associate Professor, Nottingham Law School, IP Research Group

The Panel will present for 45 minutes followed by a 30 minute Q&A session.

The online event is free, but registration is required here: