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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.

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“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 PortmanRepublican Ohio Senate candidate calls on GOP rep to resign over impeachment vote Sunday shows - Trump's reemergence, COVID-19 vaccines and variants dominate Portman on Trump's dominance of GOP: Republican Party's policies are 'even more popular' MORE (R-Ohio) said on the Senate floor Wednesday. 

The bill is co-sponsored by Portman and Sens. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperTexas snowstorm wreaks havoc on state power grid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - Dems rest their case; verdict on Trump this weekend No signs of demand for witnesses in Trump trial MORE (D-Del.), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanSenate Democrats call on GAO to review child care access barriers for disabled parents, kids Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers Koch-backed group launches ads urging lawmakers to reject COVID-19 relief bill MORE (D-N.H.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP senators question Amazon on removal of book about 'transgender moment' CPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Watch live: Day 2 at CPAC 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.