Bipartisan group of senators unveils bill to protect research on campuses from foreign entities

Bipartisan group of senators unveils bill to protect research on campuses from foreign entities
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday introduced a bill that seeks to protect intellectual property on U.S. campuses from being stolen by China and other countries.

The Safeguarding American Innovation Act would work to bolster the State Department’s power to deny visas to foreign nationals who are seeking access to technology associated with U.S. national security and economic security interests. 

It would also impose fines and imprisonment if foreign nationals do not disclose foreign backing for federal grant applications and empower the Education Department to penalize schools that do not accurately report gifts from foreign entities.


“Our bill goes directly to the root of the problem and makes it punishable by law to knowingly fail to disclose foreign funding on federal grant applications. This isn’t about more arrests. We should all agree that transparency and honesty on grant applications are critical to the integrity of U.S. research and the U.S. research enterprise. These provisions will help promote those principles as well,” Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenators holding behind-the-scenes talks on breaking coronavirus package stalemate Overnight Defense: Pompeo pressed on move to pull troops from Germany | Panel abruptly scraps confirmation hearing | Trump meets family of slain soldier Pompeo, lawmakers tangle over Germany troop withdrawal MORE (R-Ohio) said on the Senate floor Wednesday. 

The bill is co-sponsored by Portman and Sens. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperHouse committee requests hearing with postmaster general amid mail-in voting concerns Senators press Postal Service over complaints of slow delivery Barrasso nuclear bill latest GOP effort to boost uranium mining MORE (D-Del.), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanHillicon Valley: Feds warn hackers targeting critical infrastructure | Twitter exploring subscription service | Bill would give DHS cyber agency subpoena power Senate-passed defense spending bill includes clause giving DHS cyber agency subpoena power Lawmakers push NOAA to prevent future 'Sharpiegate' MORE (D-N.H.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns Skepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal ACLU targets Democrats, Republicans with mobile coronavirus billboards MORE (R-Fla.). 

The bill comes amid growing pressure on Washington to curtail spying and intellectual property theft on U.S. campuses, with many claiming that Chinese nationals are trying to steal new ideas from colleges and universities.

In the most recent high-profile incident, the Justice Department accused a professor at Harvard University of lying to authorities about his affiliation with a Chinese recruitment program and funding he’s received from Beijing for his research. The professor pleaded not guilty this week.