Statement on Foreign Engagement and Support for University Researchers

February 8, 2023

Stanford pursues its research and education missions drawing on the talents and contributions of our diverse international community of students and scholars.[1] Likewise, engagement and collaboration with international partners are essential to Stanford’s efforts to develop the knowledge and innovations required to address some of the world’s most pressing problems.

One challenge to this work in recent years has emerged from the geopolitical tension between the U.S. and China and resulting concerns about U.S. national security. Stanford takes seriously the threats from foreign governments that seek to undermine U.S. national security as well as the security and integrity of the research environment. These concerns and the issues they pose for research universities have been articulated in reports including the 2022 MIT report as well as the 2022 report of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. As a leading research institution, Stanford has an important role to play in safeguarding the research ecosystem and preventing U.S. national security from being jeopardized while continuing to advance universal scientific values of reciprocity, objectivity and fairness.

Unfortunately, the articulation of concerns about the integrity and security of the research environment, and efforts to address those concerns, have caused fear, distress and, in some cases, professional and personal harm to some researchers. This is particularly true for members of our Asian and Asian American communities – especially those of Chinese origin. Inflammatory rhetoric and generalized accusations have caused some researchers to feel targeted and vulnerable purely because they have relationships and collaborations in and with China. This is unacceptable and contrary to the university’s commitment to nondiscrimination and maintaining an open and welcoming environment. Furthermore, discrimination and xenophobia threaten to deprive the U.S. of valuable talent and collaborations, delegitimize serious security concerns, and divert attention and resources from promoting the security of the research enterprise. All international students, faculty, staff, postdocs and alumni are valued members of the Stanford community and should always feel welcome, safe, respected and valued.  No one should ever be considered suspect based on their national origin or heritage.

Stanford is committed to providing support to researchers engaging in cross-border collaborations, including in China or with Chinese partners, in ways that protect the security and integrity of the research ecosystem and comply with federal laws. For example: 

  • Stanford is committed to providing guidance and support to researchers. The Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Research, together with the Schools, continue to develop resources and provide guidance and support to help researchers comply with government disclosure and reporting requirements.  Appropriate disclosure is critical to ensuring research security and integrity and is one of the most important steps faculty can take to protect themselves from accusations of improper conduct.


  • Stanford is committed to sharing information with the research community. The federal government and other credible sources continue to develop and share information with the research community about national security and human rights concerns. The university monitors these updates and works to communicate relevant information and develop resources to help faculty identify and mitigate risk associated with their research activity.


  • Stanford is committed to defending researchers and protecting the individual’s right to due process. Stanford understands the risk that some individual researchers may be subject to agency investigation or federal law enforcement, particularly related to their cross-border activities. Highly publicized federal and institutional investigations of university scientists have created fear and uncertainty in the research community, which have been exacerbated by the complexity of these investigations as well as the need for confidentiality. The university has posted guidance on the web for students or faculty who are contacted by law enforcement, available from the International Affairs website. Stanford defends and indemnifies faculty and staff when they are subject to investigations or other legal action resulting from the lawful performance of their Stanford duties. 

The research community faces unprecedented challenges. Risks to the research ecosystem from improper foreign interference are serious and call for carefully configured measures both at the governmental and university levels. At the same time discrimination, harassment and bullying are unacceptable. Guided by our fundamental values of academic freedom, openness in research and nondiscrimination, the university will continue to work in partnership with faculty and researchers to ensure the integrity and security of our research ecosystem, support global engagement by our scholars, and maintain an open and welcoming environment. 


Marc Tessier-Lavigne, President

Persis Drell, Provost




[1]  E.g., President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell, In support of our community (March 7, 2019).