Univ. of Arkansas Professor Suspended for Not Disclosing Chinese Ties
The professor and researcher, who has worked at the university since 1988, received grants and contracts from federal agencies, including NASA.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A University of Arkansas electrical engineering professor has been suspended without pay for allegedly failing to disclose ties to the Chinese government and Chinese businesses.
Simon Ang, 63, was arrested by FBI agents Friday and charged with wire fraud, reports ABC News. According to officials, Ang, who has been a professor and researcher at the university since 1988, defrauded the university “by failing to disclose that he held other positions at a Chinese university and Chinese companies” in violation of conflict of interest policies.
“Ang made false statements and failed to report his outside employment to UA, which enabled Ang to keep his UA job as well as obtain [US government] research funding,” according to an FBI special agent’s affidavit.
As part of his research, Ang received grants and contracts from federal agencies, including NASA. If his ties had been disclosed, he would have been ineligible to receive the grants.
Authorities discovered Ang’s alleged ties after another employee found a hard drive in the lost-and-found at a campus library, according to CNN. While reviewing its contents, the employee found a Sept. 2018 email exchange between Ang and a visiting researcher from Xidian University in Xi’an, China.
“You can search the Chinese website regarding what the US will do to Thousand Talent Scholars,” Ang wrote. “Not many people here know I am one of them but if this leaks out, my job here will be in deep troubles (sic).”
According to the FBI, people affiliated with China’s Thousand Talents program collect research information sought by Chinese authorities. Ang disclosed his participation in one program in 2014 but failed to report his involvement in other programs between 2012 and 2018.
Ang remains in the Washington County Detention Center in Fayetteville without bond. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.
The FBI has been working to stop the theft of technology and trade secrets by Chinese researchers working at U.S. institutions of higher education through seminar lectures and briefings with campus administrators.
The move comes after the discovery of several cases of intellectual property theft, breaches in scientific integrity, cyberattacks, the participation of academic researchers in foreign talent recruitment programs and other forms of foreign interference relating to research performed at U.S. universities.
Just last month, the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned that foreign adversaries are most likely also behind a spate of cyber attacks against U.S. and British universities in attempts to steal coronavirus research.
Last year, the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) released leading practices for addressing foreign threats to universities. Those recommendations can be found here.
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