2018-09-12 饶毅 知识分子
撰文 | 饶 毅 美国华盛顿特区 国立健康研究院（NIH）院长 Francis Collins医学博士、哲学博士 亲爱的柯林斯博士： 你备受尊重，因为你是研究人类疾病基因变化出类拔萃的科学家，也是令人尊重的、宗旨为“探求生命系统本质和行为根本知识、用于增强健康、延长生命、减少疾患”的国立健康研究院（NIH）的院长。 人们欢呼NIH为改善美国人民和全人类的健康所作出的贡献
撰文 | 饶 毅
附件推荐一篇文章（“The Singular Moral Compass of Otto Krayer”），记叙一位德国药理学家，在其事业早期，他拒绝接任因纳粹开除犹太科学家而空出的系主任职位。他可以接受这一职位，不因社会之恶而怪罪自己，但他在完全预见对自己事业的损害情况下，写信拒绝就职。此后他被纳粹禁止任学术职位、连图书馆都不能用。他被迫离开德国不是因为他是犹太人，而是因为他敢于申张正义、声讨罪恶。
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。
注2：“事实是情人眼里出西施”，认为事实也不是事实，而是因观察者而异。英文“情人眼里出西施”为“beauty 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 disability”.
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 contributed.
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 from Europe.
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 widely applauded.
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 the future.
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 the FBI?
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) (https://gr-ants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-AI-16-006.html). So, 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 entire world.
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 countries.
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 US.
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 are tested”.
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 before.
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 compete.
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