Four UF faculty members are jobless after investigation into US research and China

By  | 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) --
Four University of Florida faculty member are out of a job after an investigation got underway exploring whether US research is being compromised by China.

The University of Florida says the employees failed to disclose their involvement with foreign talent programs.

This comes after the National Institutes of Health expressed concerns that foreign governments were trying to influence US research.

Three people have resigned and one part-time researcher was fired.

In December, state leaders launched an investigation after the Moffitt Cancer Research Facility in Tampa was found to have links to a Chinese government organization.

In 2018, UF reported spending $865-million on research.

Florida Senator Rick Scott said in a statement to US Universities that the threats from China need to be taken seriously and quote, "Everyone needs to understand this risk."

The University of Florida shared these concerns and responded to them by undertaking a number of actions, including:

- Issued multiple university-wide memoranda to UF employees emphasizing disclosure obligations for foreign activities, other support and foreign components within federally funded research projects.

- Developed and implemented an International Risk Assessment process that provides for screening of activities with foreign institutions, as well as an assessment of conflicts of interest or commitment, and provides approval or denial for the activity. Since implementing this process, with few exceptions, the university does not approve participation in foreign talent programs as an outside activity.

- Developing and implementing a new electronic system for the disclosure of outside activities and interests, which directly feeds all international activities into the new International Risk Assessment process. In addition, the University centralized the conflicts of interest office and associated personnel as a direct report to the chief academic officer.

- Created a website to communicate information concerning the foreign influence threat and disclosure requirements.

- Provided multiple outreach and educational sessions to UF deans, chairs and faculty.