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Head of Harvard’s chemistry department arrested for lying about work with China

Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
The head of Harvard’s chemistry and chemical biology department, Charles Lieber, was charged Tuesday with making false statements about his involvement with China’s program to recruit foreign researchers. Lieber’s contract with the program, Thousand Talents, afforded him a monthly salary of up to $50,000 and annual living expenses of more than $150,000 over three years, according to an affidavit supporting the criminal complaint against Lieber unsealed on Tuesday. He was also given more than $1.5 million by the Chinese government and the Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) to set up a lab and conduct research at the university.
Lieber is one of the most prestigious scientists yet to be swept up in the FBI’s investigations into scientists stealing research for other countries, most of which have involved China. There are at least 180 investigations looking into intellectual property theft at 71 institutions across the US, The New York Times reported last November. The Thousand Talents program, which aims to bring in leading scientists who “can enhance China’s high-tech industries and emerging disciplines” has been a focus of scrutiny.
Lieber is one of Harvard’s most distinguished professors and a leader in nanoscience and nanotechnology research. He allegedly signed an agreement to work with WUT on behalf of Harvard to conduct research and development of nano-wired lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles — an agreement he didn’t have the authority to sign, according to the affidavit. The affidavit also alleges that Lieber misrepresented his work with WUT through the Thousand Talents program to Harvard and lied to the Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health. The DoD and NIH both fund Lieber’s research group at Harvard. To receive funding, Lieber’s research group is required to disclose foreign collaborations and support.
Lieber has been placed on paid administrative leave and is not allowed back on Harvard’s campus. “The charges brought by the U.S. government against Professor Lieber are extremely serious. Harvard is cooperating with federal authorities, including the National Institutes of Health, and is conducting its own review of the alleged misconduct,” Harvard said in a statement emailed to The Verge.
This is to further state that no one is above the law.

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