Harvard faculty defend colleague charged over alleged Wuhan links
A professor at Harvard allegedly failed to reveal his ties to China, leading to his prosecution by federal officials.
Academics are rising to his defense in the name of international “scientific collaboration."
A professor at Harvard University allegedly failed to reveal his extensive links to China, leading to his arrest. Now, several of his colleagues are rising to his defense in the name of international “scientific collaboration.”
Charles Lieber — the former chair of Harvard University’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department — was charged with making a “materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statement” about his ties to China.
Lieber received more than $15 million in grants from the United States National Institutes of Health and Department of Defense, which “require the disclosure of significant foreign financial conflicts of interest, including financial support from foreign governments or foreign entities," according to the U.S. Justice Department.
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Without notifying Harvard, Lieber became a “strategic scientist” at Wuhan University of Technology in 2011 and was a contractual participant in China’s Thousand Talents Plan from 2012 to 2017. The Thousand Talents Plan is “designed to attract, recruit, and cultivate high-level scientific talent in furtherance of China’s scientific development” — specifically, by luring foreign experts to “bring their knowledge and experience to China and reward individuals for stealing proprietary information.”
Lieber received $50,000 per month, living expenses equivalent to $158,000, and a $1.5 million award to establish a laboratory in Wuhan, according to the DOJ.
In a 2018 interview with investigators, Lieber “stated that he was never asked to participate in the Thousand Talents Program, but he ‘wasn’t sure’ how China categorized him.”
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In spite of his criminal charges, colleagues are rising to Lieber’s defense in the interest of “scientific collaboration.”
Thirty-one professors and academics representing such institutions as Harvard, Stanford, University of California-Berkeley, and California Institute of Technology, said that Lieber “has become the target of a tragically misguided government campaign that is discouraging U.S. scientists from collaborating with peers in other countries, particularly China.”
In our open letter, we scientists are standing up for @Harvard professor Charles Lieber. We also are speaking out against the harm that the prosecution of Charles and other scientists has inflicted on academic freedom and scholarly collaboration. pic.twitter.com/0EQw8cWIzO
— Stuart Schreiber (@SchreiberStuart) March 1, 2021
The group urged the Department of Justice to “prevent further harm to him and the scientific process by declining prosecution of his case and others like it.”
Campus Reform reached out to Harvard University and Schreiber for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.
Follow the authors of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft