No, research is not being criminalized; The insider trading investigation is about insiders revealing non public information — not a cashier casually mentioning they were busy on Tuesday after lunch.
Speaking to C level executives, or buying data from info is a problem. Channel checks are fine, inside information is not. Counting foot traffic is legitimate, paying off someone for info is not. Speaking to low level employees and cashiers is fine, getting whispers from someone on your “expert” payroll is not.
You can always find some aberrational examples that are gray, but for the most part, there is a pretty clear line as to what is and is not inside info. Magically buying into a stock just before a takeover is a strong and obvious statement that the experts were providing more than just research — some of this was inside dope, pure and simple.