Optica’s Problems Mount

A meeting with Huawei in China has come to light, making the entire thing look worse

  • Note: I’ve been traveling this week, so am a little late to this one. Apologies.

Optica, the rebranded Optical Society of America (OSA), has been in hot water recently thanks to reporting in May from Bloomberg which exposed that the organization had accepted millions in funds from Huawei. A Congressional investigation was opened, and within weeks Optica had cut ties with Huawei and returned the money.

Bloomberg reporters have kept digging, and receiving information from inside Optica, it appears. This time the documents show that CEO Elizabeth Rogan traveled to China in November 2023 and visited Huawei, a stop that was not mentioned in social media or internal communications, making it appear secretive. As Bloomberg reports (bolding mine):

Scrutiny over the funding arrangement has dealt a blow to a partnership that effectively helped Huawei preserve access to a pipeline of top-notch US scientists despite its pariah status in Washington. For example, according to Bloomberg’s latest findings, at least three of the six US researchers Huawei secretly sponsored through the Optica competition won Pentagon funding around the same time.

An April 4 complaint, filed to Optica’s general counsel by an employee citing the group’s whistleblower policy, flagged Rogan’s “undisclosed” visit to Huawei’s headquarters and raised concerns about the company’s role in choosing which scientists would receive funding through the competition. The whistleblower also alleged the contest risked compromising US-government-funded work, including efforts backed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

“I believe that research that is funded by DARPA and other agencies and patents to which the U.S. government has certain rights have been willfully exported to Huawei and therefore the Chinese government” through the competition, the complaint says, without elaborating on that allegation.

Both Optica and Huawei deny the allegations, and claim Rogan’s visit was a “courtesy visit” at the end of a long trip.

The Congressional investigation remains active, and Bloomberg seems to have pulled on a long thread.

More to come.

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