XU TIAN embodies the American dream to an extent that many of his fellow
Americans might well envy.
Do you know how fast does a high-speed train run?
（原标题：饶毅致信U.S.科技(science and technology)领导：地教育学家应该有脊梁）
So what is he doing in China?
Do you know the speed of an airplane?
By Kevin Holden Dec. 16, 2016 , 9:00 AM
Part of the answer lies here, on the sprawling grounds of a former
military airfield. It is the new campus of Fudan University in Shanghai,
mammoth ersatz-Roman classroom buildings erupting from the flatland the
way American land-grant universities sprouted classrooms in their salad
days, 50 to 60 years ago. Here is a gigantic new law school. Over there
is a hulking biosciences building.
Now my colleagues are working on designing high-speed-rail whose speed
will be 1000 kilometers per hour!
撰文 | 饶 毅
When China’s leaders decided a generation ago to experiment with opening
the People’s Republic to global market forces, they created an
archipelago of special economic zones (SEZs) along the nation’s southern
coast. South China’s resulting transformation into an export powerhouse
has helped make the country a world trade titan. Now the region is part
of a new round of reforms aimed at reshaping China into a globally
connected pioneer in the sciences. China’s universities, along with the
National Natural Science Foundation and the Chinese Academy of Sciences
(CAS), have created award schemes aimed at attracting scientists trained
in the United States or Europe to take positions across southern China
and to help spur the next stage of the region’s metamorphosis. These
strategies are helping power research breakthroughs in the spheres of
space science, physics, genomics, and medicine.
And here, Dr. Xu said, are his two homes for lab rats.
Back in 1896, China lagged behind in railway design, and there was no
Chinese railway engineer at that point.
From rice paddies to space stations
“There are 20,000 cages here,” he said, almost nonchalantly. “That one
over there has 25,000. Each one holds a maximum of four or five
Over one century has passed, his proposal has become one of China’s
leading centers of engineering education. It was also the second oldest
institution of higher education in the history of China. It is the
engine of Chinese high-speed rail.
The drive to transmute the country’s burgeoning economic might into
scientific prowess is evident across southern China. Shenzhen,
crisscrossed by rice paddies when it was designated an SEZ, is now one
of the world’s fastest growing cities and hosts one of China’s leading
genomics outfits. Similarly, the tropical island of Hainan, ringed by
fishing villages when it too became an SEZ, opened its new space launch
center this summer. Thousands of visitors watched the premier liftoff of
the new Long March 7 rocket, along with the prototype of a
next-generation human space capsule that it carried into orbit. CAS
leaders say spaceflight is a high-priority sector for heightened
international cooperation. China recently signed an agreement with the
United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, outlining Beijing’s
pledge “to enable United Nations member states, particularly developing
countries, to conduct space experiments onboard China’s space station,
as well as to provide flight opportunities for astronauts and payload
engineers.” CAS is stepping up its twin drives to boost collaboration on
transborder science projects and to increase its standing in worldwide
science. One area in which it has made headway is in studies
encompassing the formation of the universe, the earliest galaxies, and
the solar system. Planetary scientist Yuan Li, a postdoctoral researcher
at Rice University in Houston, says he was persuaded to accept a
position at the CAS Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry through a Global
Youth Experts award. Li is the lead author of a recent Nature Geoscience
study, cowritten with colleagues at Rice, which posited that the
life-enabling carbon in the Earth’s crust might be the result of a
collision between the proto-Earth and a Mercury-like planet about 4.4
billion years ago. That collision was distinct from the interplanetary
smashup that scientists believe gave birth to the Moon during the early
formation of the solar system. “During the accretion of our Earth, there
were probably numerous collisions between the proto-Earth and small
planetary embryos,” says Li. This early period in the solar system’s
evolution, he adds, might have resembled a massive billiards game
involving the inner protoplanets crashing into each other before
entering stabilized orbits around the sun. Li’s paper is part of a
steady rise of articles written by Chinese scholars and published in the
world’s leading academic journals. He says China’s expanding
constellation of incentives for scientists is a powerful attraction for
scholars trained in the West. “In the past five years, thousands of
young scientists like me have returned to China,” he says.
Dr. Xu is a world-class geneticist. A Yale professor and one of roughly
340 American scientists endowed by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute
to pursue their wildest research desires, he seeks a holy grail: the key
to what makes a mouse tick, gene by gene by gene. The implications for
human health are profound, as the mouse and human genomes are
substantially the same.
What makes us different?
Particle physics breakthroughs
At Yale, he devised a process that allows mass production of genetically
altered mice, an important step toward decoding the genome. At Fudan, he
perfected it, and he is putting it to work at laboratories that hold one
of the world’s largest collections of test animals. Soon, the new campus
will sprout another building in the neo-Classical style: the Fudan
Institute of Developmental Biology and Molecular Medicine, of which Dr.
Xu is a co-director.
(1) Cities ofculture and Nature
China is interested not only in the macroworld, it is also keen on the
microworld. Scientists with an advanced degree in physics who have
accepted positions at south China universities are helping track and
explain how neutrinos morph into different types, or generations, as
they fly through space at nearly the speed of light. These physicists
have joined an international team of scientists who are studying nuclear
reactor–produced neutrinos in the southern Chinese seaside resort of
Daya Bay. Collaboration on these experiments involves universities and
physicists stretching across four continents, says Kam-Biu Luk, a
professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a
distinguished visiting scholar at the University of Hong Kong. Luk, who
heads the international participation in the project, says this
exploration of the long-shrouded world of neutrinos is one of the most
outstanding experiments in particle physics ever conducted by joint
groups of universities based in China and the United States. Physicists
at the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong,
Shenzhen University, Dongguan University of Technology, and Sun Yat-sen
University have joined counterparts at Yale, Princeton, and other
laboratories in this expanding experiment. Chinese scientists involved
in these neutrino observations, along with the international team headed
by Luk, were awarded the prestigious Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental
Physics in 2016, for outlining how neutrinos transform as they speed
through the cosmos. They won, according to the prize citation, for
“revealing a new frontier beyond, and possibly far beyond, the standard
model of particle physics.” Due to the rapidly growing neutrino physics
programs in China, Jiajie Ling, a postdoctoral researcher at the
University of Illinois who is now a professor in physics at Sun Yat-sen
University, opted to take a position there with start-up funding support
from the Thousand Talents Program for Distinguished Young Scholars. He
is helping to guide a new series of experiments at Daya Bay: the search
for the hypothesized “sterile neutrino.” This proposed fourth type of
neutrino could be a form of the elusive dark matter that scientists have
been searching for since the last century, says Ling.
The Chinese government built them all, gratis.
We have tree campus, based in two cities—Chengdu and the Emei.
Future home of particle colliders
In a sense, Yale and the Hughes Institute have outsourced the genome
project to a place where labs are built quicker and more cheaply —
“China speed,” Dr. Xu said, half-jokingly — and where talented young
scientists work for a pittance.
Chengdu is home to pandas and hotpots and Sichuan Cuisine.
According to Ling, the massive neutrino study he is working on is
helping China move closer to realizing its plans to host an
international coalition of elite physicists around its proposed
supercollider projects. China’s top-echelon physicists, in tandem with
leading scientists worldwide, are designing a ringed particle smasher
measuring up to 100 kilometers in circumference that would initially be
configured as an electron–positron collider, and would later also host a
proton–proton accelerator. “After so many years of preparation and
joining world-wide experiments, now is a fantastic time for China to
host the Circular Electron–Positron Collider and the Super Proton–Proton
Collider,” Ling says. “More importantly, it is also China’s
responsibility to contribute to advancing high-energy physics and
humanity’s knowledge about the universe.” Jie Gao, one of the leaders of
the twin circular collider projects at the CAS Institute of High Energy
Physics, says southern Guangdong Province is a leading contender to host
the ringed accelerators. Chinese and American scientists who are laying
the groundwork for what would be the largest and most sophisticated
particle physics lab in history predict it could attract thousands of
the world’s experimental physicists to take up positions in China’s
planned “collider city.” Alain Blondel, one of the primary shapers of
the Future Circular Collider being mapped out by CERN (the European
Organization for Nuclear Research) in Switzerland, says “it would be
fantastic” if the leaders of CERN and of the Chinese supercollider
program wind up competing to attract the globe’s foremost physicists.
Tao Liu, a physicist at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology,
echoes this sentiment. He says China’s planned collider project is the
most exciting ever to capture the attention of leading physics
professors and science students across Hong Kong. The supercolliders,
Liu adds, will “boost development in science and society in the coming
decades, [and] will inspire young talents of this and future
generations to devote themselves to the exploration of basic science.”
“Realistically, with the flatlined budget in science, one can imagine
he’d have to spend six times the money he’s spending in China” to
duplicate the labs in the United States, said Jack E. Dixon, the Hughes
Institute’s vice president and chief scientific officer. “It’s probably
just not possible in the United States to do that on the scale that he
wants to do it.”
Emei, is a city listed in UNESCO cultural heritage and naturalheritage.
The campus is right at the foot of the mountain.
Mining the genome
Dr. Xu now leaves Yale for Shanghai about three months a year. Other
American scientists of Chinese descent are moving for good, lured by a
lavishly financed government campaign that offers foreign scientists
ample money and a chance to make waves in what is still a small research
No university in China boast such great cities and great natures.
Just across the border from Hong Kong, universities and the local
government in Shenzhen are channeling their expanding funds into making
globally recognized advances in life science research and applications.
“Shenzhen has repositioned itself as one of the world’s leading centers
for genetics research,” says Bicheng Yang, communications director at
the genomics outfit BGI, which is moving forward with plans to create a
specialized life science college in partnership with the South China
University of Technology (SCUT) and the University of Copenhagen. Four
years ago, BGI signed a cooperation pact with the Gates Foundation to
set up joint training programs with the University of the Chinese
Academy of Sciences and SCUT. “The aim is to integrate the new college
more and more into scientific research that stretches across the
continents,” she explains. Xin Jin, a genomics expert with dual research
positions at BGI and at the SCUT, says, “One of the most exciting
projects we are working on is the Chinese Million-ome Project, aimed at
decoding one million Chinese genomes across the entire country.” The
university and BGI are also exploring the use of genomics to map the
genetic evolution of current populations dating back to the early modern
humans who trekked to Asia more than 40,000 years ago, and their
admixture with more archaic species, adds Jin, who coauthored a study on
this topic published in Nature.
BUT were money the only issue, Dr. Xu might not be here. For while he is
a thoroughly naturalized American, Shanghai and Fudan are where he was
born, and where he ultimately found his calling. He left China for the
United States 27 years ago, chasing a dream he thought unattainable
(2) International Community
At the frontier of human genome editing
Dr. Xu does not want China’s young scientists to be denied their dreams,
and not every aspiring Chinese scientist is lucky enough to make it to
The English websites of the university, international office and
all the schools is a window to the university, gibing a panoramic view
of what is happening in the university and beyond. Particularly, the
international office website introduces policies and programs that
support international students in the campus community.
The potential use of genomic engineering to eradicate the genetic bases
for diseases is also being explored by groups of university researchers
in the southern mega-city of Guangzhou. One of these groups recently
reported conducting a leading-edge experiment, but with only limited
success, in editing the genomes of human embryos to confer genetic
resistance to HIV infections. A similar paper published in 2015 by
researchers at Sun Yat-sen University ignited a global debate over
whether this type of research should be conducted on human embryos
because of its potential to trigger genetic changes that ripple across
future generations. Since then, leaders of the national science
academies in the United States, the United Kingdom, and China have met
and reached a consensus that while this type of research could continue,
any applications should be prohibited. The lead organizer of the summit
involving the three science academies was David Baltimore, president
emeritus of the California Institute of Technology. He adds that Chinese
researchers can move forward with embryonic genome editing studies as
long as “experiments are limited to 14 days of in vitro growth and no
implantation is attempted.” The genomics teams at Sun Yat-sen University
and at Guangzhou Medical University, says Baltimore, represent “an
effort of two labs to move into the forefront of the research.” Some
scholars suggest that China’s support for these studies, in view of the
U.S. Congressional ban on federal funding for research involving
modifying the genomes of human embryos, could help scientists across
Chinese universities move ahead in this realm of gene editing.
“This has made students realize it’s possible to do first-class research
in China,” he said in a long interview at his spartan Fudan office, one
wall covered by a scribble-filled whiteboard. “That’s a very important
change in the mind-set. It makes them more willing to take on high-risk
projects and ask big questions.”
International Students Cultural Festival.The festivities commence
with a speech by VC andexhibitions on cultures of students’ home
countries and a grand musicalfestival.
Reversing “brain drain”
Dr. Xu’s own rise was a matter of luck — and boundless ambition. He was
born in 1962 in Jiaxing, about 50 miles southwest of Shanghai, to a
onetime college literature professor and his wife, a union leader at a
silk factory. Reviled for his educated status during the Cultural
Revolution, Dr. Xu’s father was sent to a labor camp; his mother was
publicly persecuted. In middle school, Dr. Xu suffered daily criticism.
*A variety of tours and trips **to famous attractions all over the
country will be an eye-opening experience for all our
In another region of south China, at the Guangdong University of Foreign
Studies, Jing Yang has been conducting research with colleagues at
Pennsylvania State University on structural changes in the brain that
occur when students begin studying a second language. Yang, formerly a
postdoctoral fellow at Penn State, says she joined Guangdong University
of Foreign Studies because the school “is well known for cultivating
international talent.” She says she aims to help transform the
university’s language center into “a leading research center for
linguistics and applied linguistics,” and adds that the government is
providing large-scale grant support to reach that goal. China’s economic
ascent and the increasingly attractive recruitment packages offered by
its universities are becoming extremely appealing to Chinese scholars
who have studied in the West, Yang says, and are beginning to help
reverse a decades-long brain drain, during which scholars left the
country to pursue their careers elsewhere. While many Chinese scientists
still opt to stay in Europe or the United States after obtaining an
advanced degree there, Yang observes that “some scholars, like me, chose
to go home to work for a brighter future for ourselves and also for our
country.” These scholars, she adds, are helping create clusters of
excellent scientific research across China. “The rise of China
definitely is not limited to the economy,” Yang explains. “We hope our
country can excel in science, culture, and technology too. It is a
double win for China and the world.”
“I was really full of anger,” he said. “The school principal would come
to me and say: ‘How come you are in school? We aren’t supposed to
educate people like you. You’re the kind we punish.’ ” The principal had
studied under Dr. Xu’s father in college.
(3) English and Chinese Courses
When the Cultural Revolution ended, he enrolled at Fudan. Determined to
avoid being labeled an elitist, he chose the most obscure major he could
find. Fudan’s genetics department, the only one in China, was led by C.
C. Tan, a brilliant scholar educated in the United States.
The University offers many English-taught courses in different
disciplines for international students. Please do not worry the language
Dr. Xu became his protégé, and he graduated with honors, eventually
winning a stipend in 1983 to attend City College of New York. Broke and
barely able to speak English, he lived with fellow students in an
abandoned house on 140th Street in Harlem, subsisting on bread and
If you want to learn Chinese, don’t worry, we have School of
International Education, and we have students language partners to
practice with you.
In his first week, Dr. Xu was mugged at knifepoint. “In the Cultural
Revolution, I go through a lot of hardships, so that’s O.K.,” he said.
(4) Frist-class subjects
But he quickly discovered that City College lacked money to finance his
real love, laboratory research. So after fruitlessly scouring New York
for another scholarship, he took a train to New Haven to plead his case
at Yale, where he won a fellowship despite his poor English and lack of
credentials, like graduate exam scores.
Looking back, the university has created loads of “No.1”s in China and
even in the world. For instance,the first railway designed by
Chinese, the first electric locomotive in China, the first planar
and curved suspension bridge in the world.
After postdoctoral work on fruit-fly genetics at the University of
California, Berkeley, he returned to the Yale School of Medicine. In
1996, he pitched a radical idea to the Hughes Institute: breeding
genetically altered mice with the ease that scientists produced
mutations in fast-breeding fruit flies.
At present, our materials science, engineering and computer science are
TOP 1% in the world.
附属类小部件推荐一篇文章（“The Singular Moral Compass of 奥托Krayer”），记叙一个人酒花之国药历史学家，在其事业早期，他不肯接任因纳粹开除犹太地文学家而空出的系主管职位。他得以接受这一职位，不因社会之恶而责怪本人，但他在一齐预知对团结事业的祸害景况下，写信拒绝下车。此后他被纳粹禁止任学术职位、连体育场面都不可能用。他被迫离开德意志联邦共和国不是因为他是犹太人，而是因为她敢于申张正义、声讨罪恶。
The first scientist who produced genetically altered mice won the 2007
Nobel Prize in Medicine. But breeding mutant mice was a laborious,
one-mouse-at-a-time process. A decade of trial and error rewarded Dr. Xu
with the jackpot: a butterfly gene, nicknamed piggyBac, that could
insert itself into the mouse genome, randomly turning off one gene per
(5) International DNA
Until then, scientists had charted the mouse genome but had scant idea
what each gene actually did. Dr. Xu’s innovation allowed them to find
out by examining mouse genes on a vast scale.
At the beginning of the establishment, the university delivered all
courses in English. Now in the age of globalization,the university
attaches more importance on internationalization.
In the five years since the piggyBac gene was disclosed, researchers
worldwide have decoded more of the mouse genome than had been deciphered
in the preceding 20 years. Dr. Xu and other scientists using his
technique are now looking for genes that govern behavior, nutrition,
instinct, predisposition to diseases and other basics. Just one
discovery — a gene regulating the molecule that controls digestion in
mice — potentially opens the door to simple treatments that could end
not only obesity but malnutrition as well, he said.
1100 international students from countries.
THE report of Dr. Xu’s achievement at Fudan, published in August 2005 in
the prestigious scientific journal Cell, was the first time that
China-based research had produced a cover story.
In collaboration with 190 universities of countries and regions
In that sense, Dr. Xu’s victory is a cautionary tale for American policy
Statistics given by the US’s International Institute of Education shows
that, China has become the destination country for international
students. With more much favorable polices for international talents put
into place, we are open to you. Engineer better future, together with
Dr. Robert J. Alpern, the dean of Yale’s medical school, said that China
leaped at the chance to host Dr. Xu’s project when the American
scientific establishment, asked several times to finance Dr. Xu’s work,
demurred. “They were clearly trying to make an entrance into science,
and they were excited by Tian and this project,” Dr. Alpern said. “They
felt Tian would lift China and science. And I think that’s true.”
Science is not a zero-sum game — even when the competition is trying to
poach your stars, said Dr. Dixon of the Hughes Institute. World-class
research benefits all humanity, regardless of where it originates.
“Some Chinese labs are in fact very competitive with U.S. laboratories
now,” Dr. Dixon said. “And in a way, that’s what you hope to see — that
they would excel. I don’t view this as an arms race of any sort.”
Dr. Alpern agrees. “The key to success in the United States is
strengthening the American enterprise, not trying to slow down another
country,” he said.
Dr. Xu goes a step further. His work at Fudan is a boon for the United
States, he said, because it promotes the transparency and freedom from
government interference that are hallmarks of American research.
And it takes a small step toward debunking the notion, widespread among
ordinary Chinese and government officials alike, that the United States
is bent on thwarting China’s ascension to global power.
“Chinese society is deeply suspicious of the West’s intentions,” Dr. Xu
said. “That’s why some behavior is ultranationalistic. To integrate
China into the international society will be fantastic. It will be great
for the world, great for China — great for everybody.”
注1：Truth is truth，源自二〇一八年7月美国总理的律师RudyGiuliani在接受电视机访谈时称“truth isn’t truth”, 被反驳。
is in the eyes of the beholder”。在同样电视访谈中，Giuliani称“facts are
in the eyes of the beholder”。
Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
The National Institutes of Health
Dear Dr. Collins,
You are highly respected as a scientist who has carried out outstanding
research on genetic mutations underlying human diseases, and as a leader
of the NIH whose mission “is to seek fundamental knowledge about the
nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that
knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and
NIH is lauded for its contributions to improving the health of
Americans, as well as the health of the humankind. Its tradition and
standards are the heritage of human civilizations, to which ancient
cultures from the Greek, the Indian, and the Chinese have all
Intellectual legacy and heritage have been exchanged internationally for
a long time. The West has learned about paper manufacturing, the
compass, the gunpowder, and printing from China. The US has learned much
Scientists with Spines Do Not Bend to Politicians
Your August 20th statement is shocking because it is the first time when
any government official has issued a statement restricting scientific
collaborations in peacetime.
Furthermore, the following, as reported in Scientific American is
appalling: “Collins also wrote to roughly 10,000 NIH grant institutions
encouraging them to set up briefings with FBI field offices about
threats to intellectual property and foreign interference.” No SCIENTIST
in the entire history of humankind has asked FBI equivalents to monitor
“foreign interference”. Some governments have done so, but not at the
initiation of leading scientists or scientists in leadership positions.
Even in the worst times of the Soviet Union, leading scientists had the
spine to do the opposite: the physicist Pyotr Kapitsa rescued his
student Lev Landau when the latter was investigated for anti-Stalin
activities in the peak of Stalin’s power (and terror).
Your letter and your action of encouraging FBI collaborations are thus
extraordinary deviations from the normal practice of science.
You publicly stated a few years ago in Shanghai: science has no national
boundaries because it belongs to the humankind. This was translated and
Dr. Collins: what you said then is the truth.
Truth is truth. No scientist can bend the truth just because political
leaders or lawyers say otherwise.
The Eternality of Science and the Moral Courage of Scientists
Science is eternal, whereas politics, as the kind practiced in the
present day US, is transient. History has proved that bad politics
perish, as in the cases of the Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany. The
Trumpism US will be an exception only if the Sun rises from the West in
I am sympathetic that most US scientists, while always taught, and often
self-assumed, to be morally upright, usually do not understand history
and do not know how to deal with political pressures of the evil nature,
such as those in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.
Attached please find an article (“The Singular Moral Compass of Otto
Krayer”) about a German pharmacologist, who, while in his early budding
career, refused to take up a chairmanship opened up by Nazi firing of a
Jewish scientist. While he could have accepted the position, without
blaming himself for societal ills, Krayer wrote a letter of refusal,
fully anticipating damages to his own career. He was thereafter barred
from all academic jobs and even the use of libraries in Germany. He had
to leave Germany, not because he was Jewish, but because he stood up for
what was right and against what was wrong.
In the end, Nazism and Stalinism had damaged Germany and Russia the
most. Germany, which was leading in mathematics, physics, chemistry and
your own field of genetics before Hitler, has never been able to regain
its scientific strength to the level reached before Nazism.
History can repeat itself if we do not learn from the past, even if the
past was in other countries.
With Trumpism presently prevalent in the US, it is a testing time for
many Americans including American scientists.
At this point, Trumpism in the US can mainly threaten science with
reduction of budgets, nothing compared to careers ruined or lives
destroyed. If allowed to go on the slippery road, how do we know that
competing labs will not report on each other for foreign interferences
or influences when a large number of students and a significant number
of faculty members are foreign-born Should future discussions of science
be separated into “American” and “Foreign” Should future classrooms,
meeting rooms, etc., be similarly separated Should annual meetings of
academic societies and associations refuse to have “foreign influences”
Should NIH funded domestic and international meetings be monitored by
It is time for American scientists to show their spines.
Freedom of Scientists and Their Choices of Support
All scientists have the right to work wherever they choose, and the
freedom to collaborate with whomever they deem appropriate.
Scientific research can be supported by any legitimate funding agency,
most of which are governmental across the entire world. Funding of
individual scientists by multiple sources is not an issue of concern,
even when funding comes from different countries.
As recent as 2015, your own NIH and the National Natural Science
Foundation of China (NSFC) announced the U.S.-China Program for
Biomedical Collaborative Research (R01)
the statement in your August 20th letter that “NIH is aware that some
foreign entities have mounted systematic programs to influence NIH
researchers and peer reviewers” is a total lie unless you are implying
that the NIH is an initiating and active partner in such a conspiracy.
This is clearly targeting China because Russia can barely fund its
science, Europe and Japan have not launched any new programs. China has
launched new programs to recruit scientists, regardless of national
origin but most are scientists of Chinese origin because of linguistic
and cultural differences. China has not tried to influence NIH
researchers or peer reviewers. The “Thousand Talent Program” is to
recruit more scientists, not to influence any other country. NIH is
shameless in distorting the truth. Any and every country has the right
to recruitment. The world should welcome more and more countries to
invest in science and support scientists because science serves the
Because no government agency for science funding holds patents or other
intellectual properties resulting from research supported by their
grants, it is completely outside the scope of the NIH but in the realm
of institutions to protect their intellectual properties (IP) and to
assign proper rights to the collaborators in cases of collaborations.
NIH has funded researchers in China for more than 30 years. Naturally,
all those supported by the NIH also have grants from Chinese funding
agencies. Are you going to say that all these investigators represent
foreign influences Furthermore, all their IPs belong to their
institutions. It is hypocritical for the NIH to argue about IPs when
neither the Chinese nor the US government funding agencies are involved
in IPs. The vast majority of grants never lead to valuable IPs. If a few
researchers fail to report multiple sources, it is but a small fault of
an individual with minor consequences, which was blown out of proportion
by your August 20th statement as foreign interferences.
China, having led the world economically before the birth of the US, was
relatively poor economically and could not afford to fund science for
most of the time when the US has been in existence. China is now capable
of funding science, both for the development of China and as a
contribution to the world. China funds pure mathematics and astronomy,
which are not expected to generate any economic benefits for any
particular country in a short time, if ever. The stated mission of the
NIH is not to generate economic benefits, either, a fact that should not
change in the eyes of the beholder. Thus funding for most of the
biomedical sciences should not be a source of conflict between different
Your Conscientious Heritage
Thomas Jefferson, the founder of your alma mater the University of
Virginia, was an intellectual giant, and a champion for freedom. Had he
been alive today, would he applaud your letter or action
Your own research advisor at Yale came from a culture of great talents
which were made scapegoats whenever Westerners run into troubles of
their own making. The Jewish people were often persecuted, sometimes
blatantly and sometimes in a thinly veiled manner. Your August 20th
letter is obviously targeting scientists of Chinese origin, making
Chinese as the new scapegoat of anti-intellectual irrationality in the
Whether collaborating or competing, Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui played an
important role in the success of discovering the cystic fibrosis
susceptibility gene in the 1980s, for which you shared the credit. In
the 1980s, China was poor and could not offer financial support. Had the
same happened today, it is possible that Dr. Tsui would also receive
support from China. Would you call the FBI to investigate him
If funding agencies decide to pool in resources for worthy research,
that should be welcome, not investigated.
The late John McCain once remarked: “I like to think that in the
toughest moments I’d do the right thing, but you never know until you
This is certainly the toughest moment so far for most American
scientists, especially those in leadership positions. One can only wish
that it would not get any tougher.
Any scientist willing to serve on the Advisory Committee stipulated in
your August 10th letter will be morally tainted. The Committee should be
disbanded. The letter should be retracted.
Will leading American scientists do the right thing, or at least not
willingly and proactively do the wrong thing History will remember how
American scientists stand a true test of character and honor.
Hope for More International Collaborations
Because it is not related to the military and because of its universal
values to the humankind, international exchanges and collaborations are
the easiest in the biomedical sciences.
China is actively planning to start the Chinese Brain Initiative. The US
NIH already has a Brain Initiative. China is interested in supporting
international collaborations in brain research, partly to promote
research that will benefit people of all countries, partly as an effort
to pay our share for common goal snow that China is not as poor as
At such junctures, NIH should discard short-sighted collaborations with
the FBI or self-degrading fear-mongering of “foreign interferences”, and
instead embrace efforts by all countries to support biomedical research.
China has a long tradition of valuing intellectual contributions, but
our science has not been as good as it should. To become a responsible
member of the world, China is now increasing its support in the
sciences. All countries should be welcome for their support of science.
If there are competitions, the Olympic Games have shown us how to
Fruits of biomedical research will be enjoyed by all humans; science
will remain a major bridge of mutual understanding between people of
different countries and cultures.
Yi Rao, Ph.D.
Professor and Director, PKU-IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research
Dean, Division of Sciences, Peking University
Director, Chinese Institute for Brain Research, Beijing