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Protecting Universities and Research from Foreign Interference and Illicit Technology Transfer

A comparison of existing policies and lessons learned from Europe, Japan, and Taiwan for legislative and policy updates

One of the main issues in democratic countries is that universities have a mandate to create and disseminate knowledge but no mandate to protect national security. Even when security agencies visit universities and highlight potential national security issues, universities may choose to ignore their advice because they may already have professional, personal, and financial ties with their Chinese counterparts. Moreover, some academics perceive national security agencies as overly alarmist. In addition, numerous scholars only care about academic relationships and do not consider the risk of information leakage; some are even paid directly and so instructed by the PRC.

Solutions lie in strengthening national security laws and extending them to academic institutions and identifying areas of research unacceptable for foreign interaction and funding. Laws and regulations are needed to make universities and scholars disclose their contracts with foreign counterparts and foreign research funding. This should be accompanied with systematic awareness-raising to strengthen prevention and improve understanding of the situation in academia as well as in society as a whole. Universities have an indispensable role in our societies, and they should be keen to ensure their independence, to protect themselves, and to be resilient against foreign interference by implementing their own internal rules and guidelines.