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US loses appetite for university research but not China

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US loses appetite for university research but not China

In a report that should surprise no one, China is funding sensitive research – including biometric surveillance tools — in the United States.

The fear, expressed in a post on Coda, is that work on strategic science and technology here, funded by China, could be exported for uses that run counter to U.S. interests.

The publication, which covers anti-democratic technologies and policies, says diversified tech giant Alibaba granted $125,000 to a University of Maryland professor to work on ways to recognize the personality and biometric features of pedestrians.

China‘s appetite for ever-more comprehensive biometric systems is insatiable.

While it is often – and rightly – called out for how it is trying to wipe out its Uyghur minority culture, in no small measure with facial recognition software and ubiquitous surveillance cameras, the same surveillance is used to keep the country’s entire population in line.

That an expansive autocratic regime would fund research in the United States is not unexpected. Some of the best research and development evolves in U.S. higher-education labs.

But it appears that Beijing might value academic research more than Washington.

According to Science, a journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, The share of funding going to basic research funding by the federal government fell below 50 percent in 2013, a first since the end of World War II.

Washington made up 70 percent of the funding in the 1960s. Its share was 61 percent in 2004, according to reporting by Science. The decline is attributed to a decade of inattention by lawmakers and a growth in industry funding.

The federal government still pitches in more than institutional funds, state and local government and businesses, but its only two drops in constant 2012 dollars since 1972 occurred in 2007 and 2013, according to the National Science Foundation.

In 2013, the United States ranked 24th globally in funding for university research and development as a share of gross domestic product, according to the research publisher Statista. The United States fell to 28th place, Statista says, citing information it got from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation.

It outranked China, but itself was outranked by much of Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore.

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