MIT, under the control of foreign research, announces a closer examination of Chinese and Saudi collaborations


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MITS President Rafael Reif welcomed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on campus last year.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced on Wednesday that it would take a closer look at research collaborations with Chinese, Saudi and Russian universities and academics. Research officials at MIT also said that the private university would not accept new commitments or renew existing commitments with Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE or their affiliates.

This is the last step of a US research university to re-evaluate its research projects with China. Relationships have been subjected to scrutiny by US government agencies and legislators. Institutions such as Cornell University and Ohio State University have announced that they will not accept additional Huawei grants.

The US government accused the company of stealing trade secrets and officials warned of its ability to spy on US communications networks. President Donald Trump signed a law last year prohibiting executive agencies from using Huawei and ZTE products.

The decision of the MIT also follows criticism of its partnerships with Saudi Arabia, following which the university president, L. Rafael Reif, condemned the violations of human rights. man committed by the kingdom. In an open letter to campus this year, Reif has refrained from saying that MIT should cut ties with the kingdom. In the past year, Saudi universities and government entities sponsored about $ 7.2 million in research at MIT, supporting 48 senior researchers.

As part of its new policy, MIT will give these projects a level of revision beyond what research partnerships currently receive. It "is designed to enable MIT to engage effectively in the world, with responsible risk management and respect for the values ​​of our community", Richard K. Lester, Assistant Vice Principal, and Maria T. Zuber, vice president of research, wrote in a letter to their colleagues.

Further examination will be the subject of three types of projects: those funded by individuals or entities from China, Russia and Saudi Arabia; those involving faculty or staff of MIT or students working in these countries; and collaborations with individuals or entities in these countries.

If the Associate Vice Principal determines that there remains "a significant risk" after other groups have evaluated the budget and proposal for a project, a group of senior administrators and the project manager. General Counsel of the University will review the project plan. This group will give the project a risk management plan or "decide that the project can not go ahead," says the letter.

The list of countries included in the new review process is subject to change, said the university. MIT will "revisit" collaborations with Huawei and ZTE "depending on the circumstances".

Lindsay Ellis is a journalist. Follow her on Twitter @lindsayaellis, or write to [email protected]

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