To lawyers, conviction of Harvard chemist with China ties shouldn’t chill science. Researchers aren’t so sure

The trial was supposed to be a bellwether — an indicator of whether federal investigators might ease up in their scrutiny of university labs with potential ties to China. Already, a University of Tennessee engineer had been found not guilty of any misconduct. The Justice Department had dropped charges against five other researchers, who’d been accused of covering up links to the Chinese military. If Harvard University nanotechnology star Charles Lieber were let off, too, it might deal a blow to the China Initiative, a Trump-era search for academics involved in scientific espionage. 

Instead, Lieber was found guilty on Tuesday — not of espionage or theft of intellectual property, but of lying to federal agents and failing to report foreign income and assets on his tax filings. 

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