President Donald Trump’s administration is prioritizing the protection of scientific research institutions from possible theft by foreign states.

Kelvin Droegemeier, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and principal scientific adviser to President Trump, said in an Sept. 16 open letter that in recent years “some nations have developed increasingly sophisticated attempts to exploit, influence, and undermine” U.S. scientific activities.

According to a report by the Center for Immigration Studies, several nations, especially China, are sending students to U.S. schools and universities to steal trade and defense secrets, the Washington Examiner reported in August.

“Because there is no control over the number, place of origin, or courses and research studies of foreign students and exchange scholars, many of those governments use the U.S. foreign student and scholar programs as opportunities to engage in spying and theft of important defense and trade secrets, as well as cutting-edge technological advances,” the report said.

“For many nations—China is a prime example—such espionage is a ‘family affair’ and it encourages all of its students and scholars to bring important information home whenever the opportunity presents itself,” the report continued, according to the Washington Examiner.

A surveillance plan

To address this and other threats and ensure U.S. leadership in research, Droegemeier created the Joint Committee on Research Environments (JCORE).

The program is reviewing all universities and scientific organizations in the country implementing a policy of transparency requiring foreign scientists to disclose links that could lead to conflicts of interest.

A number of high-profile scientists with hidden ties to China have been identified under this program and have been fired, according to the Washington Examiner.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from,” Droegemeier said.

“The individual researcher has to behave with integrity. If they know the rules and they break the rules, I don’t want them in the research enterprise,” he added.

“They don’t belong there. It’s just as if they plagiarized a paper or they fabricated a result,” the scientist added.

The Thousand Talents program, which the Chinese regime organizes to attract the best minds from Western universities to work in the Asian country, is of particular concern to the expert.

“We know China doesn’t play by the rules of the game. It’s very important that anyone who is in our R&D system here in America plays by the rules,” he said.

“Whether they are from Norman, Oklahoma, or they’re from Beijing, China, that’s fundamental to the conduct of research,” he continued.

JCORE is collecting examples of infractions in scientific organizations across the country to promote practices and guidelines to protect American research.