MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University hosted a regional webinar on Thursday called Enhancing the Security and Integrity of America’s Research Enterprise led by the White House and support from the National Science Foundation.
Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), led the webinar, which was attended by several research universities throughout West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey.
Droegemeier provided an update on the activities undertaken by OSTP and others during the past several months, examples of risks to research security that can harm the enterprise, and steps being taken by OSTP and agency partners to address risks to security and integrity while maintaining an open and collaborative enterprise that he said makes research in America special.
It all really boils down to managing risk. What are the characteristics of the risk, what is the nature, what does it look like, so on and so forth? So you really have to understand the risk and universities are really well versed in this, they face all kinds of risk and so they have a risk management approach that universities take. But we also have a behavior-based approach because as I mentioned earlier, individual research values — you have a choice of whether you’re going to disclose something that is required of you, you have a choice whether you’re going to plagiarize, or falsify, or fabricate. You have a choice about doing those things, so this is not about ethnicity, this is not about the country of origin. The issue of research security is about behavior and playing by the rules.Kelvin Droegemeier – Director, OSTP
Droegemeier said although research integrity is often at risk because of bad actors, both foreign and domestic, some nations are worse than others. China, he said, wants to reap the benefits of the hard work that goes into American research, but does not like to share the values of openness and integrity that makes research done in America unique.
These bad actors, he said, pose many risks economically and for national security reasons, among other things. That is why research universities know the risks that are out there, and how to avoid violating rules is essential, Droegemeier said.
A big part of his job at OSTP, Droegemeier said, is giving presentations like the webinar to ensure that researchers can remain compliant and avoid risks. Another significant factor, he said, is working to protect the research environment in America without taking away things like transparency and an open-minded atmosphere that is so key.
“That is what we want to make sure that we uphold the rules and ethos of integrity, honesty, appropriate behavior, and respect for one another,” Droegemeier said. “That is really critical.”
Droegemeier said another critical matter was keeping an international and collaborative model here in the U.S. That has been valuable in allowing research to blossom, and that cannot be taken away in efforts to protect research. Instead, again he said, the key is to mitigate risks by being more aware of what they are and how not to violate compliance. And also to stop the fake attempts at the collaboration attempting to steal or subvert American research.
His views on the importance of the international component were shared by another speaker, Dr. Rebecca Keiser, the NSF director for the Office of International Science and Engineering.
“The international collaboration, whether it is for mutual benefits, whether it is true intellectual contributions by both sides, and when we are clear about who we are partnering with, is encouraged, and it is wonderful,” Kaiser said. “But we are talking about here, regarding some of these issues in research security, they are not collaborations.”