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A letter from the National Institutes of Health named two UF faculty members and contained information about “questionable foreign meddling in grant research and funding,” according to UF spokesperson Steve Orlando and the Tampa Bay Times. 

UF is one of at least 60 universities that received letters from the medical research center, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Orlando said. 

UF was the top National Institutes of Health-awarded school in Florida, receiving more than $190 million in grants last year, according to The Times.

Since receiving the letter, four faculty members have left the university. 

The university’s investigation revealed activity by two researchers, and the medical research center’s probe connected the other two to the inquiry, according to the Times.

The center issued another letter in August 2018 expressing “serious concerns regarding efforts by foreign entities to exert inappropriate influence on research in the U.S.,” Orlando wrote. The letter did not specify any one university.

Following this letter, the Department of Defense, National Science Foundation and congressional members issued similar communications, he wrote.

The university responded to these concerns by creating a website and issuing statements and informational sessions outlining the university’s disclosure policy for foreign involvement with federally funded research projects. In the Fall, an International Risk Assessment process was implemented to screen foreign institutions, designate conflicts of interest and issue approvals for activities. The process rarely approves foreign talent programs.

In a December letter to Sen. Rick Scott, President Fuchs wrote that these new programs identified faculty members participating or seeking to participate in foreign talent programs. 

“Any faculty member who fails to disclose their participation in a foreign talents program is subject to discipline, including termination for cause,” he wrote.

Since 2018, administration members have participated in programs led by federal agencies and national organizations to contend with foreign influence and the university has taken steps to protect its intellectual property and technology from foreign threats, Fuchs wrote.

“It is important to emphasize that even as we must remain vigilant, our rules focus on behaviors, not specific nations or peoples,” Orlando wrote. “Our campus remains an open and welcoming place to students, faculty and staff from around the world and of every race and ethnicity.” 

Contact Chasity Maynard at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @chasitymaynard0. 

Correction: The first sentence of this story was changed to reflect that two UF faculty members were named in the letter. The Alligator originally reported differently.