We are all Gang Chen
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We are dismayed by the arrest of Professor Gang Chen of MIT.
We agree with his MIT colleagues, who have prepared a detailed account of the allegations: We are troubled that the complaint against Professor Chen vilifies what should be considered normal academic and research activities, including promoting MIT’s mission of global education. Standard practices such as writing recommendations for students, reviewing proposals and serving on scientific advisory boards, are portrayed as collusion with outside forces in an effort to help them steal American technology.
We are troubled by the tactics of US Department of Justice’s China Initiative, used against Gang Chen and many others, opening thousands of investigations, insinuating crimes of national security while most allegations focus simply on a failure to disclose.
We understand the prosecutors are well intentioned following an America First philosophy but it contradicts core tenets we have as scientists and educators.
Scientists, especially in academia, believe education is a human right.
Our role as scientists and educators is to benefit all of humanity.
Dissemination of scientific thought based on published work should not be treated as theft of ideas or undermining a country’s standing in research and innovation.
We agree with longstanding US policy, written during the Cold War, that even despite efforts of an adversarial entity to steal US technology, “the strength of American science requires a research environment conducive to creativity, an environment in which the free exchange of ideas is a vital component.”
Open competition, even from an economic rival, inspires innovation so that everyone ultimately advances and more than outweighs the security risks.
The USA’s greatest asset for fostering innovation and attracting the brightest minds is the academic freedom and openness of American science praised throughout the world.
The persecution or burdening of scientists for their interactions and collaborations will come at a great cost of lost ingenuity and decline of our global leadership in science and technology.
We therefore urge our elected officials to stop the persecution of scientists.
Specifically, to limit federal indictments of scientists to true accusations of espionage, illegal transfer of classified technology or intellectual property violations.
We support the recommendations that transparency and disclosure are essential aspects of ethical science, but should be adjudicated as scientific misconduct just as plagiarism is, not by federal prosecution but through university offices of academic integrity, scientific institutions, and the NSF.
We urge the US government institutions to once again reaffirm the National Policy on the Transfer of Scientific, Technical and Engineering Information. This policy defines Fundamental Research as “basic and applied research in science and engineering, the results of which ordinarily are published and shared broadly within the scientific community.” It concludes that the open sharing of Fundamental Research is in the best interest of the USA as it has been found to drive the “continued preeminence of the United States in science, engineering, and technology by attracting and retaining the world’s best talent.”
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