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China's Restrictions On Academic Data Sparks Concerns Among Researchers Globally
According to researchers, the new rules and uncertainty surrounding them are discouraging international collaborations with scientists in China. Others fearing that access to information could be stymied have been choosing to not work on projects related to China or its citizens, Nature reported
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Recently introduced restrictions on the flow of academic and health data from China have sparked concerns among researchers globally, Nature reported.
According to researchers, the new rules and uncertainty surrounding them are discouraging international collaborations with scientists in China. Others fearing that access to information could be stymied have been choosing to not work on projects related to China or its citizens, Nature reported.
According to the article, China is also mulling to place limits on the amount of human genetic data that can be sent to other nations. Joy Zhang, a sociologist at the UK's University of Kent, said that China does not want its scientists to collaborate freely as they used to with people of other nations.
"The signal has been very clear that China does not want its scientists to collaborate as freely as they used to with foreigners," Joy Zhang said, according to Nature.
Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) came into effect in China in November 2021. The law is designed to stop companies and others who collect data on individuals from misusing their customers' personal information.
The suite of regulations, which have been introduced gradually since 2021, includes cybersecurity assessments of personal information and genetic data sent overseas, and restrictions on the export of biotechnology know-how in CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology, synthetic biology and crop breeding. China is also considering limits on the amount of human genetic data that can be sent to other countries, the article said.
Joy Zhang called privacy protections a "necessary development" in China and noted that many hospitals in China lack the cybersecurity infrastructure to safeguard patient data against privacy violations.
Another measure that was implemented in China in 2022 was that the companies and institutions that send personal data, like customer details or information on clinical-trial participants to people outside China must undergo a data-export security assessment, according to Nature.
The assessments conducted by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) have been designed to protect personal data and sensitive information related to national security. Chinese companies and universities planning to export data need to either apply for certification or have a contract with the receiving organisationnizsation that guarantees the data will be stored appropriately and processed only as specified in the contract.
Joy Zhang called the rules problematic for international researchers whose work depends on access to data or collaborators in China. According to the article, organisationnizsations in China were given six months to comply with the export requirements.
One resource affected by the new rules is China's largest academic database - China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI).
CNKI documents include millions of Chinese-language journal articles, master's and PhD theses, conference proceedings, newspapers, government statistics and patents, Nature reported.
In April, the China National Knowledge Infrastructure suspended foreign access to portions of its database, including annual statistics collected by provincial governments, national census data, conference proceedings and theses. The CNKI said that the decision of suspension was taken according to the new rules on data export.