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My name is Frank Press. I am President of the
National Academy of Sciences.
I am pleased to provide my views on a very important national concern -- the relationship between open scientific communication and national security. I became directly concerned with the issue when I was Science Advisor to the President and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy during the last Administration. More recently, it was the subject of a major study conducted under the Academy's auspices, by a distinguished panel chaired by Dale Corson, former president of Cornell University. The report of the Corson panel entitled Scientific Communication and National Security was released just over one year ago. Many of my comments today are based on its conclusions.
The subject of this hearing has become a national issue basically because advancing scientific knowledge and, more importantly, the technology founded on that knowledge -- has brought two legitimate social objectives into conflict: the advancement of knowledge and the nation's military security.
With the exception of wartime, free international
scientific communication rarely has been perceived as
detrimental to America's defenses against foreign military adversaries. However, initiatives have been undertaken
over the past several years to prevent the dissemination of certain U.S. research results from providing military advantages to America's adversaries. The reaction to these measures has included strong statements of principle both by advocates of scientific freedom and of national security; that is, statements vigorously decrying and supporting such measures.
The issue, in my view, is somewhat paradoxical, for the quality of our new military and commercial technologies derives from U.S. scientific superiority, and that superiority depends upon the open exchange of ideas. The health of the research enterprise depends crucially on scientists building on each others ideas and on the ability to test new ideas against the best existing ideas worldwide. The informal exchange of draft scientific
papers among leading specialists in the field, travel to scientific meetings and conferences, personnel exchanges, and the publication of papers and their exposure to global scrutiny by other researchers is the essence of productive science. It is, I think, no accident that a nation founded on personal liberties enjoys world leadership in science. And it is no accident that closed societies have
been forced to look outward for the science that must underlie their technological advances.
Thus, American scientists are extremely sensitive to the possibly chilling effects of various recent
governmental efforts to control scientific communication. These include attempts to prevent certain unclassified research results from being presented at meetings attended by Russian scientists. That occurred, for example, at a meeting on magnetic bubble devices held by the American Vacuum Society in 1980, at the annual technical symposium of the Society of Photo-Optical Engineers in 1982, and at the Fourth International Conference on Permafrost in 1983. There are also initiatives to require scientists to secure governmental permission before they make their unclassified research results accessible in foreign countries. That would, of course, include virtually all scientific publications, since almost all have an international readership. An example is the "no foreign distribution" condition in some unclassified governmental
Perhaps most disquieting, from the point of view of individual U.S. scientists, is that these and other governmental actions to control scientific communication have been largely disjointed, unpredictable, and vague in specifying the scientific fields they are intended to cover. The result is that any particular scientist is
quite unclear about what obligations and sanctions, if any, might apply to her or his work.
More generally, advocates of openness in science point out that imposing national security controls on scientific work may be counterproductive. For example, restrictions
on scientific meetings held in the United States may result in international scientific organizations banning meetings in the United States and the relocation of these meetings to other sites that are more accessible to foreign scientists--and less accessible to ours. Also, as the international scientific enterprise continues to advance, the proportion of scientific fields in which U.S. science has a clear lead will diminish meaning that international communication in more and more fields will be in our own scientific and technological interest. Finally, there is some danger that in those scientific areas where controls are imposed, some of the best U.S. scientists (and, importantly, some of their best students) will simply transfer their interest to unrestricted
research areas, thus depriving military and civilian
days in which the advantage went to the nation with the
largest military, the best trained soldiers, or the most defensible boundaries are largely behind us. Second, they point out that military technology is, increasingly, what is called "high" technology. That is, more and more critical military technologies are in areas that are very close to current scientific frontiers. In addition, many of these new technologies are "dual-use" technologies fields, like advanced electronics, having both military and civilian applications. The significance of the rise of dual-use technology is that one can no longer be certain, even if research is not funded by the military, that it will be irrelevant to military needs.
Citing these trends, those whose job is to protect U.S. national security often point to the danger that we thoughtlessly give away the advantage of our scientific superiority in critical fields.
Both points of view are based on legitimate concerns. The objectives of the Corson Panel study were to consider those concerns, to examine the evidence, and to explore new ways to resolve the dilemma. Major funding support for the work was provided by the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and by internal Academy funds reserved for critical national studies. The organization and mission of the Panel on Scientific
Communication and National Security was designed to ensure