FBI special agent in charge John F. Bennett in a Sept. 30 news conference, announcing charges in a Chinese espionage case. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The U.S. government is trying to solve a difficult problem: How to protect scientific research from China-linked theft, without quashing international collaboration or resorting to racial profiling.

Driving the news: Last week federal prosecutors charged Charles Lieber, chair of the Harvard University chemistry department, with lying about funds he obtained through a Chinese government recruitment program.

  • Lieber is a rare case of a non-Chinese person arrested for failing to disclose China ties.

Background: Working with the National Institutes of Health, the FBI launched a sweeping investigation into research institutions' links to China last year.

A recent report proposes existing disclosure practices should be enough to address foreign influence in research, including problems with coercion and theft.

  • But the process of disclosure isn't standardized across agencies and institutions and can be unclear for researchers.
  • "Improving disclosure and transparency is probably the most important recommendation," Remco Zwetsloot of Georgetown's Center for Security and Emerging Technology said of the report from the JASON program at MITRE Corp. "Universities and scientists are asking for clarification in guidance and standardization across the agencies."

The spate of investigations, largely of ethnic Chinese scientists and researchers, has raised fears that another era of race-based targeting may be nigh.

  • Former China correspondent Mara Hvistendahl reveals in her new book "The Scientist and the Spy," out yesterday, that in the height of the Cold War the FBI spent years spying on Chinese scientists and students in the United States. Some lost their careers permanently without ever facing formal charges.

The bottom line: Law enforcement officials have to tread carefully to protect U.S. research and civil rights.

Go deeper: The stakes of a swift U.S.-China decoupling

Go deeper

Updated 15 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m. ET: 20,177,521 — Total deaths: 738,716 — Total recoveries: 12,400,156Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m. ET: 5,130,784 — Total deaths: 164,603 — Total recoveries: 1,670,755 — Total tests: 62,513,174Map.
  3. States: Georgia reports 137 coronavirus deaths, setting new daily record Florida reports another daily record for deaths.
  4. Health care: Trump administration buys 100 million doses of Moderna's coronavirus vaccine.
  5. Business: Moderna reveals it may not hold patent rights for vaccine.
  6. Sports: Big Ten scraps fall football season.

Voters cast ballots in Minnesota, Georgia, Connecticut, Wisconsin and Vermont

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Primary elections are being held on Tuesday in Minnesota, Georgia, Connecticut, Vermont and Wisconsin.

The big picture: Georgia and Wisconsin both struggled to hold primaries during the coronavirus pandemic, but are doing so again — testing their voting systems ahead of the general election. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) is facing a strong challenger as she fights for her political career. In Georgia, a Republican primary runoff pits a QAnon supporter against a hardline conservative.

44 mins ago - Health

Trump administration buys 100 million doses of Moderna's vaccine

A volunteer in Moderna's vaccine clinical trial receives a shot. Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The U.S. government has agreed to buy 100 million doses of Moderna's experimental coronavirus vaccine for $1.5 billion, or $15 per dose.

Why it matters: The Trump administration, through Operation Warp Speed, has now bought initial batches of vaccines from Moderna, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi, Pfizer, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca before knowing whether they are safe and effective. The federal government also appears to own some of the patent rights associated with Moderna's vaccine.