A top Harvard University professor has been arrested and is in disgrace for lying to the United States regarding his involvement with the Chinese regime in projects in Wuhan.
Dr. Charles Lieber was arrested on Jan. 28 on charges of making false statements about a research program he was conducting with Chinese researchers, reported ScienceMag. He was released on a bond of $1 million.
The U.S. attorney for Massachusetts announced on Tuesday, Feb. 18, that Lieber, 60, who is the chair of Harvard’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department, has been indicted for covering up its involvement with several Chinese organizations.
At a news conference, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said Lieber had been given hundreds of thousands of dollars by China, including more than $15 million toward his Harvard research group, from the Chinese National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense.
Lieber signed an agreement with Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) in 2013, and according to the affidavit, “The stated purpose of the agreement, which had a five-year effective term, was to ‘carry out advanced research and development of nanowire-based lithium-ion batteries with high performance for electric vehicles.’”
It is also alleged Lieber was involved at WUT with the Chinese Thousand Talents Plan, a recruitment plan aimed at drawing top-level scientists to China. This plan allowed the Chinese government to access research from foreign scientists. In addition, Lieber was being paid $50,000 per month by WUT, and a payment of $1.5 million to establish a nanoscience laboratory in WUT.
Lieber had lied to authorities regarding any involvement in the Talents plan, and his affiliation with WUT.
As reported by ScienceMag, “In Lieber’s case, however, the battery angle poses a puzzle. That’s because a search of the titles of Lieber’s more than 400 papers and more than 75 U.S. and Chinese patents reveals no mentions of “battery,” “batteries,” “vehicle,” or “vehicles.” (According to Lieber’s CV, through 2019 he has co-authored 412 research papers and has 65 awarded and pending U.S. patents. The website of the Chinese National Intellectual Property Administration indicates that Lieber has been awarded 11 Chinese patents.) In fact, one U.S. nanoscientist and former student of Lieber’s said, “I have never seen Charlie working on batteries or nanowire batteries.” (The scientist asked that their name not be used because of the sensitivity surrounding Lieber’s case.)”
Harvard University said in a statement the charges against 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,” the university said, reported CNN. “Professor Lieber has been placed on indefinite administrative leave.”
The focus of Lieber’s research has never been batteries, so the question remains, why was he involved in research in Wuhan that was outside his specialty area?