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National Security and Scientific Openness

In response to the joint statement of the three Presidents of the National Academies, the Office of International Affairs (OIA) will hold a symposium on finding the appropriate balance between scientific openness and national security. The symposium will be held on August 2 and 3, 1999 at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), 2101 Constitution Ave., N.W. in Washington, D.C. The conference is part of the activities of OIA's Committee on Balancing Scientific Openness and National Security, which is conducting a fast-track study to address consequences of current and proposed restrictions on international contacts by the U.S. Department of Energy?s national laboratories.

The symposium includes several panel discussions, each with two or three members. Each panel speaker is being asked to make a short presentation on issues that relate to the Committee's charge. The issues include (1) the role of the Department of Energy's national laboratories in national security and the contributions by foreign laboratories and scientists, (2) the proposals for amending security policies of the weapons laboratories in regard to contact with foreign laboratories and scientists, and (3) the risks and benefits of scientific openness in this context. Time will be available for public comment and discussion. Updated information about the conference will be available on the world wide web at http://www4.national-academies.org/oia/oiahome.nsf.

The anticipated result of this project will be a letter report that will make recommendations to the U.S. government. These recommendations will emphasize how to serve national security scientific advances facilitated by international communication among scientists, through scientific contacts to further non-proliferation, and through protection of classified information from foreign espionage.


Finding the Balance:
Scientific Openness and National Security

The recent revelations and charges of Chinese espionage against U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories have led to a series of new security regulations and practices by DOE, as well as many additional proposals from the U.S. Congress and outside groups. At present, these changes and proposals are still in development. However, the general intent and impact appear to be much greater limits on foreign visitors to the laboratories and significant constraints on contacts between U.S. scientists and scientists from countries considered sensitive. The new policies would affect not just the DOE laboratories, but also the broader U.S. scientific community that conducts research in the many areas in which DOE funding and laboratories play a role.

In May 1999, the three presidents of the National Academies issued a joint statement on scientific openness and national security, warning against inappropriate restrictions on the program for foreign visitors at DOE's national laboratories and arguing that national security is served both through positive new scientific advances facilitated by international communication among scientists and through careful protection of crucial classified information from foreign espionage. The presidents also announced that the National Academies would initiate a fast-track study with a symposium in August to examine these issues and make recommendations to the U.S. government.

A committee formed by the National Academy of Sciences' Office of International Affairs will oversee development of the symposium and to prepare the letter report summarizing its conclusions. The committee will include scientists from fields whose work is relevant to classified and unclassified programs at the DOE laboratories, experts on international security (including members of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control), and experts on classification policy and practice. The two-day symposium, "Finding the Balance: Scientific Openness and National Security," will provide the major substantive input for the study. Topics will include:

The symposium will be open to the public (see agenda) and will take place on August 2 and 3 in the auditorium of the National Academy of Sciences building located at 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. The committee encourages interested parties to submit written comments or pertinent materials. Individuals wishing further information should contact the study staff at (202) 334-2811. Those wishing to register should send their contact information (including name, organization, address, phone and fax numbers, and e-mail) to Wendy Blanpied (wblanpie@nas.edu) or fax that information to (202) 334-1730.

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