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Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Justice is considering an amnesty program that would allow researchers to disclose previous foreign funding without penalty, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: The department is facing mounting criticism that its prosecutions of academics who failed to disclose China ties is too harsh.

Driving the news: Gang Chen, a professor of engineering at MIT, was arrested and charged with grant fraud on Jan. 14.

  • The latest in a string of similar indictments, this arrest has produced perhaps the most significant pushback so far. The MIT president and nearly 100 faculty members have signed a letter defending Chen, and a GoFundMe account has been opened to support him.

Some fear racial profiling. And some critics say the DOJ may be putting too many resources toward a relatively small issue compared to other threats, such as that posed by violent right-wing extremism.

  • "For years it’s been an open secret that some researchers with ties to China have been committing grant fraud and double-dipping," says Mara Hvistendahl, author of "The Scientist and the Spy," a book about Chinese industrial espionage and the FBI.
  • "But just because someone has dual appointments doesn’t mean that they’re leaking sensitive technology or even spending a lot of time in China. The problem is that these investigations are very resource-intensive and can have a chilling effect on research."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Jan 26, 2021 - World

Biden sets his sights on China

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images  

The new administration's first few moves and statements on China suggest that President Biden may continue some of the Trump era's most assertive policies.

Why it matters: China's severe domestic repression, its dramatic rise as a technological superpower, and its increasingly aggressive actions around the globe mean that the world expects the American president to take action.

John Kerry: U.S.-China climate cooperation is a "critical standalone issue"

President Biden's special climate envoy John Kerry said Wednesday that the U.S. must deal with China on climate change as a "critical standalone issue," but stressed that confronting Beijing's human rights and trade abuses "will never be traded" for climate cooperation.

Why it matters: The last few years have brought about a bipartisan consensus on the threat posed by China. But as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, China will be a vital player if the world is going to come close to reining in emissions on the scale needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals of limiting warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

1 hour ago - Health

U.S. ahead of pace on vaccines

A health care worker administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine in Ruleville, Mississippi. Photo: Rory Doyle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. is now vaccinating an average of 2 million people a day, up from 1.3 million in early February.

Why it matters: That puts us on track to hit President Biden's goal of 100 million doses a month ahead of schedule.