A climate science lab at Texas A&M University has been shut down due to its ties to a Chinese university deemed a security risk.
The International Laboratory for High-Resolution Earth System Prediction (iHESP) was established in 2017 by Texas A&M University in Colorado, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and China’s Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology. The three agencies have agreed to share funding, experts and computing power to develop sophisticated computer models that predict how climate change will affect the planet.
The first phase of the partnership will run until 2023. But in December 2021, the program was terminated unexpectedly, effective immediately.
Part of the reason for the closure was financial issues with a Chinese partner. Kelly S. Brown, a spokeswoman for Texas A&M, said the Qingdao lab did not deliver on the $2 million promised to fund iHESP. However, even if the lab doesn’t default on the money, it faces another hurdle: The Texas A&M University system has marked the iHESP contract as terminated.
The lab is on a list of foreign agreements that the system wants the University City campus to end because of national security concerns.Texas A&M system not responding chronicleThe question about how the system determines iHESP is a security risk does not address questions about other contracts on its termination list.
The Texas A&M University system evaluated various agreements between China and Russia, including “animal use, study abroad, gift agreements, book publishing agreements, nondisclosure agreements,” Brown said. It makes personal decisions about which of these partnerships pose a risk that scientists could steal technical know-how for the military or economic gain of another country, she said.
A spokesman for the National Center for Atmospheric Research said the decision to end iHESP stemmed from Texas A&M. The center stopped work on the project on Jan. 31, and “seven to eight” center staff lost some funding as a result. Those workers were moved to other projects, the spokesperson wrote in an email.
Emails and calls to Qingdao National Laboratory on Friday evening local time were not immediately returned.
Cooperate with the FBI
The lab closures come at the right time in response to some political pressure. In February 2022, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Public Release He has written to 22 U.S. universities urging them to end academic and research partnerships that could benefit the Chinese military.in his letter For John Sharp, president of the Texas A&M University System, Rubio called on the University City campus to end its partnership with Ocean University of China, which is based in the city of Qingdao and works with the Chinese Navy.
Rubio’s letter never named iHESP, but Ocean University is list As a member institution of iHESP’s Chinese partner Qingdao Pilot National Laboratory.there’s still one Faculty Page For Wu Lixin, director of the Qingdao laboratory, he is also the vice president of Ocean University.
Sharp and University City Campus President M. Katherine Banks wrote to Rubio in a reply open letter The following day: “Regarding your question regarding Texas A&M University’s relationship with Ocean University, which no longer exists or is being terminated as part of our rigorous, ongoing review and cooperation with the FBI. No Further university-accredited research will take place.”
Last year, Texas A&M terminated three dozen foreign agreements during a regular rolling review process, Brown said.This comes after the university also terminated a professorship over fears of Chinese government influence: Zheng Dong arrested and charged Has a concealed relationship with a Chinese university in 2020.his case is still to do.
In late February, the Justice Department announced the termination of its controversial “China Initiative,” a Trump-era effort to stop China from stealing U.S. intellectual property through academic collaborations, but with few successful prosecutions. Critics of the initiative say it fosters an atmosphere of intolerance for researchers of Chinese descent.
“There are no winners here”
But even as the era of doubts about Chinese academic collaboration is coming to an end, its influence continues.Sources familiar with the lab say the abrupt termination of iHESP has created difficulties for some lab members chronicle. Funding for lab workers will reportedly run until the end of May, after which other jobs must be found. (Brown could not confirm the fate of iHESP employees.) For employees still trying to build their scientific careers, losing the lab prematurely creates barriers to completing research and publishing, a key to career development.
This is also the loss of science. iHESP provides data cited in a major international climate report as well as other publications.
The world’s climate models are getting better all the time, but predicting how rising global temperatures will affect local weather remains difficult because it requires a lot of computing power, iHESP researchers wrote in an article. Paper published in Journal of Advances in Earth System Modeling November 2020. “Through international cooperation, we can meet this challenge,” they wrote.
“There are no winners here,” said Xuebin Zhang, a Canadian government climate researcher who is not involved in iHESP. He said he was unable to assess the security risks of iHESP, but noted that international cooperation is essential not only to mitigate the effects of climate change, but even to study it. The computing power required is so great that “no country can really do that,” he said. “We need to mobilize all the resources we have from the world.”