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February 14, 2020
Open exchange of information is essential for progress in fundamental science and has been critical to the success of U.S. science research. Increasingly, however, national security concerns such as those expressed in recent reports1 have led to consideration of significant restrictions on U.S.- international cooperation that could jeopardize U.S. leadership in research and innovation. Particular concerns focus on the vulnerability to undisclosed or unauthorized transfer of U.S.- based knowledge and technical expertise, especially during the period before public release.
While some areas of research must employ controls, the benefits of openness in research and of the inclusion of talented foreign researchers dictate against broad federal measures that would wall off areas of fundamental research. Instead, many of the problems of foreign influence that have been raised must be addressed within the framework of research principles.
A Recommitment to Research Principles
The APS believes that the balance between national security and the research requirements of open science is best achieved through adherence by the U.S. federal government and by scientists to the following principles:2
U.S. government: The APS believes that the U.S. should continue to abide by Presidential Directive NSDD-189, which states that fundamental research is defined as research that is meant to be published in the open literature and that the products of fundamental research should remain unrestricted “to the maximum extent possible.”3 If control of particular fundamental research is required for national security, the mechanism is classification.
Scientists: The APS believes that concern over undisclosed or unauthorized transfer of U.S.-based knowledge and technical expertise is addressed most effectively by an intensified commitment to research integrity by all scientists involved in fundamental research. The elements of research integrity include objectivity, honesty, openness, accountability, fairness, disclosure, and stewardship4. We particularly note the need for (1) disclosure of conflicts of commitment; (2) reciprocity in the exchange of research information between U.S. and international scientists—the flow of information must not be one-way; and (3) responsible handling of research information, particularly before public release.
The health of the fundamental research enterprise and the needs of national security can both be satisfied by strict adherence to these principles of openness coupled with responsible stewardship.
1 For example: Threats to the U.S. Research Enterprise: China’s Talent Recruitment Plans, Report of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (2019)
2 These principles are described in the recent NSF-commissioned JASON report, Fundamental Research Security, JSR-19-2I, December 2019)
3 National Security Decision Directive 189 (1985), reaffirmed in 2001 and in 2010.
4 Many of these principles are described in the National Academies Report Fostering Integrity in Research, NAP21896, National Academies (2017)