‘End racial profiling’, say Chinese-American scientists

Apr 3, 2019 by

Brendan O’Malley –

Chinese-American biomedical science associations in the United States have voiced concern about “recent political rhetoric and policies” that single out students and scholars of Chinese descent working in the country as threats to US national interests.

Representatives of the Society of Chinese Bioscientists in America (SCBA), the Chinese American Hematologist and Oncologist Netowork (CAHON) and the Chinese Biological Investigators Society (CBIS) raised their concerns in an open letter published in Science magazine on 22 March.

They said: “These developments have led to confusion, fear and frustration among these highly dedicated professionals, who are in danger of being singled out for scapegoating, stereotyping and racial profiling.”

They added that US policies “must avoid targeting an entire ethnic group of people for suspicion that they’re spies for China”.

They pointed out that US laws already exist to safeguard US interests and punish perpetrators for stealing trade secrets or engaging in illegal activities.

In the letter in Science they said that they support the policies on intellectual property, employment and governance of conflicts of interest.

“The vast majority of scientists and students of Chinese descent are law-abiding citizens, residents or visitors who have followed these rules,” they said in the letter.

The Chinese scientists stressed that open data access and data sharing are important for the acceleration and advancement of research and can be done without putting US security at risk.

Rules challenged

They questioned whether some rules of the federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health could undermine collaborations by recommending fostering “trusted relationships” with foreign partners without specifying if that trust had to be established through official channels; or by suggesting more disclosure requirements for foreign collaborators than domestic colleagues.

They referred to the damage done by high-profile cases in recent decades of Chinese-American scientists being wrongfully accused of spying, despite their names being cleared.

This had “devastating effects” on the careers of individuals “but also a chilling and negative impact on the Chinese-American scientific community at large”, they said in their letter.

It had also become increasingly difficult for Chinese students and academics to obtain visas to enter the US for scientific meetings, visits and research opportunities, the letter said.

They said these actions amounted to “racial profiling” and voiced their hope that they would “stop immediately and that increased security measures will not be used to tarnish law-abiding scientists and limit normal and productive scientific exchanges”.

They said American scientific advances and technological innovations are the result of global efforts and their future depends on the continuation of time-tested traditions of openness and cooperation on the global stage.

“We hope that scientific collaborations will be strengthened rather than suppressed.”

National Institutes of Health responds

Responding to the letter, in the same edition of Science, representatives of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said NIH greatly values scientists of Chinese descent as members of the American biomedical research enterprise and spoke of their substantial contribution to scientific innovations and research at institutions across the US.

NIH acknowledged that “the vast majority of Chinese scientists working in America are honourable, conscientious and dedicated to the cause of expanding knowledge for the betterment of humankind”.

But, unfortunately, instances had come light recently where certain scientists, including some with links to foreign institutions and governments, had violated the honour-based systems and practices of American research.

The NIH Advisory Committee to the Director working group had “carefully considered how to ensure fairness of the grant process and intellectual property principles, while seeking to minimise jeopardy to innocent foreign nationals and important international collaborations”, the NIH letter said.

They stressed that all the working group’s recommendations applied to all foreign scientists, not just those of Chinese descent.

NIH is committed to “avoiding overreaction, stigmatisation, harassment and profiling” and would use its “influence and bully pulpit as necessary to speak out against such prejudicial actions, for which there is no place in the biomedical research community”, the Science letter said.

Source: ‘End racial profiling’, say Chinese-American scientists

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.