A former researcher who has worked at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, US since 1997 faces criminal charges for allegedly failing to disclose funding he received from the Chinese government while also accepting more than $3.6 million (£2.9 million) in grant support from the US government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH). Qing Wang, who was born in China and became a US citizen in November 2005, was also quietly serving as a dean at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China while funded by the NIH for his work at the Cleveland Clinic, according to the complaint. He also received grant funds from the National Natural Science Foundation of China that overlapped with his research supported by the NIH.
Wang was arrested on 13 May, and his indictment is expected shortly. At his initial court appearance on 14 May, Wang was released on a $100,000 (£81,000) bond after surrendering his passport, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are possible, an FBI representative tells Chemistry World. In a similar recent case at the University of Arkansas, tenured professor Simon Saw-Teong Ang faces up to 20 years in prison.
Wang is accused of participating in the Chinese government’s ‘Thousand Talents’ plan that aims to recruit individuals with access to specialist knowledge and intellectual property. As a result of his admission into this programme in 2008, the FBI says China provided $3 million in research support for his lab at Huazhong University. In addition, Wang received free travel and lodging for his trips to China, including a three-bedroom apartment on campus for his personal use, according to the agency.
After the NIH raised concerns about whether Wang appropriately disclosed his foreign research ties with China, the Cleveland Clinic says it conducted an internal review into the matter, which led to him being fired.
‘This is not a case of simple omission,’ said Eric Smith, the FBI Cleveland special agent in charge of the case. ‘Dr Wang deliberately failed to disclose his Chinese grants and foreign positions and even engaged in a pervasive pattern of fraud to avoid criminal culpability.’
When applying for an NIH grant, researchers are required to disclose foreign grant support to the agency. This information enables the agency to evaluate possible overlap in the proposed work and determine whether to fund a given research application.
Wang, who has made significant contributions to the genetics of cardiovascular and neurological diseases, is also a professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. The university, however, says he isn’t actually an employee. ‘Like many highly qualified health professionals and researchers who work at our hospital partners, this person held a faculty appointment title but received no compensation from the university,’ Case Western Reserve said in a statement.