Friday, January 31, 2020

White House official speaks on the Lieber case

...Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, director of OSTP, in his statement on the case said that “failures to disclose the receipt of substantial resources, participation in certain types of programs, and dual employment distort decisions about the appropriate use of taxpayer funds.” 
The result is “hidden transfers of information, know-how and time.” 
He went on to say that “this is exactly why OSTP launched the Joint Committee on the Research Environment,” known as JCORE. Droegemeier emphasized that JCORE has a “coordinated approach that includes the research community as a whole.” That means working with the full spectrum of federal agencies, along with the private, academic, professional society, and nonprofit research worlds. 
It’s important to continue “successful international collaborations,” Droegemeier said, but “protecting the integrity of our research system” has to be done at the same time. 
“The challenges posed by foreign-government sponsored talent recruitment programs” are met by “behavior-based” approaches, he explained, echoing comments made by Assistant Attorney General John Demers at a Homeland Security Experts Group event held at the Wilson Center earlier this month.
I don't think we've seen evidence of "hidden transfers of information", but I guess this will come out at some point. I suspect there are a lot of university professors who are looking very carefully at their grant application boilerplate and filing changes...


This was an interesting profile of Professor Lieber in the Wall Street Journal. Lots of quotes from former students, including this one:
Mr. Timko recalled Mr. Lieber as being in his lab office six days a week, often from 8 a.m. to midnight, driving a nondescript car, dressing down and reading scientific literature for pleasure. 
His hobbies included growing pumpkins in his backyard, one of which weighed 1,870 pounds, the largest in the state in 2014.
So my thought process around Professor Lieber's motivations is that he was financially motivated by the Thousand Talent program's large payouts ($50,000/month (pro-rated?) and $158,000 of living expenses). But if he doesn't have an extravagant lifestyle, where did the money go? 


  1. You need a lot of other ingredients to make pie from a pumpkin that large

  2. Where did the money go? Cherchez la femme.

  3. Where did the money go? Money is how we keep track of success in this culture, and there's a certain flex in having money and not being seen to spend it (cf. Warren Buffett). Claiming to be above material things is certainly more credible when you have the $$$.

    1. it's not much of a flex when no one knows you have it. I am not saying that the guy was poor by any means, but I am not sure this argument makes sense.

  4. As a grad school alumnus, I'm Facebook friends with a good number of chemistry academics. They post a lot about other political issues involving academia, and are pretty open about their criticism of the current administration, but my academic FB friends have been conspicuously silent about this case.

  5. Some people (myself included) just like their retirement/rainy day fund to be as large as possible and/or got used to a certain lifestyle and see no need to change it that much. My parents were born during the Depression so the mindset doesn't seem that strange to me.

  6. Looks like a family man, I'd guess the money is going to the kids college/their trust.

  7. He probably knows how expensive a very high-end retirement community is.

    Now he may be retiring in the Big House up the river. Serves him right, IMO.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20