撰文 | 饶 毅
附件推荐一篇文章（“The Singular Moral Compass of Otto
注1：Truth is truth，源自2018年8月美国总统的律师Rudy
Giuliani在接受电视访谈时称“truth isn’t truth”, 被反驳。
is in the eyes of the beholder”。在同一电视访谈中，Giuliani称“facts are
in the eyes of the beholder”。
Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
The National Institutes of Health
Dear Dr. Collins,
You are highly respected as a scientist who has carried out outstanding
research on genetic mutations underlying human diseases, and as a leader
of the NIH whose mission “is to seek fundamental knowledge about the
nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that
knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and
NIH is lauded for its contributions to improving the health of
Americans, as well as the health of the humankind. Its tradition and
standards are the heritage of human civilizations, to which ancient
cultures from the Greek, the Indian, and the Chinese have all
Intellectual legacy and heritage have been exchanged internationally for
a long time. The West has learned about paper manufacturing, the
compass, the gunpowder, and printing from China. The US has learned much
Scientists with Spines Do Not Bend to Politicians
Your August 20th statement is shocking because it is the first time when
any government official has issued a statement restricting scientific
collaborations in peacetime.
Furthermore, the following, as reported in Scientific American is
appalling: “Collins also wrote to roughly 10,000 NIH grant institutions
encouraging them to set up briefings with FBI field offices about
threats to intellectual property and foreign interference.” No SCIENTIST
in the entire history of humankind has asked FBI equivalents to monitor
“foreign interference”. Some governments have done so, but not at the
initiation of leading scientists or scientists in leadership positions.
Even in the worst times of the Soviet Union, leading scientists had the
spine to do the opposite: the physicist Pyotr Kapitsa rescued his
student Lev Landau when the latter was investigated for anti-Stalin
activities in the peak of Stalin’s power (and terror).
Your letter and your action of encouraging FBI collaborations are thus
extraordinary deviations from the normal practice of science.
You publicly stated a few years ago in Shanghai: science has no national
boundaries because it belongs to the humankind. This was translated and
Dr. Collins: what you said then is the truth.
Truth is truth. No scientist can bend the truth just because political
leaders or lawyers say otherwise.
The Eternality of Science and the Moral Courage of Scientists
Science is eternal, whereas politics, as the kind practiced in the
present day US, is transient. History has proved that bad politics
perish, as in the cases of the Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany. The
Trumpism US will be an exception only if the Sun rises from the West in
I am sympathetic that most US scientists, while always taught, and often
self-assumed, to be morally upright, usually do not understand history
and do not know how to deal with political pressures of the evil nature,
such as those in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.
Attached please find an article (“The Singular Moral Compass of Otto
Krayer”) about a German pharmacologist, who, while in his early budding
career, refused to take up a chairmanship opened up by Nazi firing of a
Jewish scientist. While he could have accepted the position, without
blaming himself for societal ills, Krayer wrote a letter of refusal,
fully anticipating damages to his own career. He was thereafter barred
from all academic jobs and even the use of libraries in Germany. He had
to leave Germany, not because he was Jewish, but because he stood up for
what was right and against what was wrong.
In the end, Nazism and Stalinism had damaged Germany and Russia the
most. Germany, which was leading in mathematics, physics, chemistry and
your own field of genetics before Hitler, has never been able to regain
its scientific strength to the level reached before Nazism.
History can repeat itself if we do not learn from the past, even if the
past was in other countries.
With Trumpism presently prevalent in the US, it is a testing time for
many Americans including American scientists.
At this point, Trumpism in the US can mainly threaten science with
reduction of budgets, nothing compared to careers ruined or lives
destroyed. If allowed to go on the slippery road, how do we know that
competing labs will not report on each other for foreign interferences
or influences when a large number of students and a significant number
of faculty members are foreign-born Should future discussions of science
be separated into “American” and “Foreign” Should future classrooms,
meeting rooms, etc., be similarly separated Should annual meetings of
academic societies and associations refuse to have “foreign influences”
Should NIH funded domestic and international meetings be monitored by
It is time for American scientists to show their spines.
Freedom of Scientists and Their Choices of Support
All scientists have the right to work wherever they choose, and the
freedom to collaborate with whomever they deem appropriate.
Scientific research can be supported by any legitimate funding agency,
most of which are governmental across the entire world. Funding of
individual scientists by multiple sources is not an issue of concern,
even when funding comes from different countries.
As recent as 2015, your own NIH and the National Natural Science
Foundation of China (NSFC) announced the U.S.-China Program for
Biomedical Collaborative Research (R01)
the statement in your August 20th letter that “NIH is aware that some
foreign entities have mounted systematic programs to influence NIH
researchers and peer reviewers” is a total lie unless you are implying
that the NIH is an initiating and active partner in such a conspiracy.
This is clearly targeting China because Russia can barely fund its
science, Europe and Japan have not launched any new programs. China has
launched new programs to recruit scientists, regardless of national
origin but most are scientists of Chinese origin because of linguistic
and cultural differences. China has not tried to influence NIH
researchers or peer reviewers. The “Thousand Talent Program” is to
recruit more scientists, not to influence any other country. NIH is
shameless in distorting the truth. Any and every country has the right
to recruitment. The world should welcome more and more countries to
invest in science and support scientists because science serves the
Because no government agency for science funding holds patents or other
intellectual properties resulting from research supported by their
grants, it is completely outside the scope of the NIH but in the realm
of institutions to protect their intellectual properties (IP) and to
assign proper rights to the collaborators in cases of collaborations.
NIH has funded researchers in China for more than 30 years. Naturally,
all those supported by the NIH also have grants from Chinese funding
agencies. Are you going to say that all these investigators represent
foreign influences Furthermore, all their IPs belong to their
institutions. It is hypocritical for the NIH to argue about IPs when
neither the Chinese nor the US government funding agencies are involved
in IPs. The vast majority of grants never lead to valuable IPs. If a few
researchers fail to report multiple sources, it is but a small fault of
an individual with minor consequences, which was blown out of proportion
by your August 20th statement as foreign interferences.
China, having led the world economically before the birth of the US, was
relatively poor economically and could not afford to fund science for
most of the time when the US has been in existence. China is now capable
of funding science, both for the development of China and as a
contribution to the world. China funds pure mathematics and astronomy,
which are not expected to generate any economic benefits for any
particular country in a short time, if ever. The stated mission of the
NIH is not to generate economic benefits, either, a fact that should not
change in the eyes of the beholder. Thus funding for most of the
biomedical sciences should not be a source of conflict between different
Your Conscientious Heritage
Thomas Jefferson, the founder of your alma mater the University of
Virginia, was an intellectual giant, and a champion for freedom. Had he
been alive today, would he applaud your letter or action
Your own research advisor at Yale came from a culture of great talents
which were made scapegoats whenever Westerners run into troubles of
their own making. The Jewish people were often persecuted, sometimes
blatantly and sometimes in a thinly veiled manner. Your August 20th
letter is obviously targeting scientists of Chinese origin, making
Chinese as the new scapegoat of anti-intellectual irrationality in the
Whether collaborating or competing, Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui played an
important role in the success of discovering the cystic fibrosis
susceptibility gene in the 1980s, for which you shared the credit. In
the 1980s, China was poor and could not offer financial support. Had the
same happened today, it is possible that Dr. Tsui would also receive
support from China. Would you call the FBI to investigate him
If funding agencies decide to pool in resources for worthy research,
that should be welcome, not investigated.
The late John McCain once remarked: “I like to think that in the
toughest moments I’d do the right thing, but you never know until you
This is certainly the toughest moment so far for most American
scientists, especially those in leadership positions. One can only wish
that it would not get any tougher.
Any scientist willing to serve on the Advisory Committee stipulated in
your August 10th letter will be morally tainted. The Committee should be
disbanded. The letter should be retracted.
Will leading American scientists do the right thing, or at least not
willingly and proactively do the wrong thing History will remember how
American scientists stand a true test of character and honor.
Hope for More International Collaborations
Because it is not related to the military and because of its universal
values to the humankind, international exchanges and collaborations are
the easiest in the biomedical sciences.
China is actively planning to start the Chinese Brain Initiative. The US
NIH already has a Brain Initiative. China is interested in supporting
international collaborations in brain research, partly to promote
research that will benefit people of all countries, partly as an effort
to pay our share for common goal snow that China is not as poor as
At such junctures, NIH should discard short-sighted collaborations with
the FBI or self-degrading fear-mongering of “foreign interferences”, and
instead embrace efforts by all countries to support biomedical research.
China has a long tradition of valuing intellectual contributions, but
our science has not been as good as it should. To become a responsible
member of the world, China is now increasing its support in the
sciences. All countries should be welcome for their support of science.
If there are competitions, the Olympic Games have shown us how to
Fruits of biomedical research will be enjoyed by all humans; science
will remain a major bridge of mutual understanding between people of
different countries and cultures.
Yi Rao, Ph.D.
Professor and Director, PKU-IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research
Dean, Division of Sciences, Peking University
Director, Chinese Institute for Brain Research, Beijing