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National Research Council (US) Committee on a New Government-University Partnership for Science and Security. Science and Security in a Post 9/11 World: A Report Based on Regional Discussions Between the Science and Security Communities. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2007.

Cover of Science and Security in a Post 9/11 World

Science and Security in a Post 9/11 World: A Report Based on Regional Discussions Between the Science and Security Communities.

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VIPartnerships for Science and Security

In the changing global economy, where new threats have emerged against both national and international security, it is imperative that channels be created and left open between the security and academic research communities for ongoing discussion and sharing of information. Historically, the national security and research university communities have “talked past” each other. When discussions do occur, conversations are replete with assumptions and stereotypes. And there often is a perception by some that neither community is willing to compromise. At the inaugural meeting of the committee, OSTP Director Jack Marburger noted that although there is no easy way to resolve the natural tensions among government, academia, homeland security, and the national security sectors, conversations among these communities are critical, and the solutions to problems are not likely to be what any single sector would have determined on its own.110

In the regional meetings convened by the committee, it became clear to all that a healthy alliance between research universities, industry, and government lies at the heart of the American system of innovation and of the innovation economy. Moreover, this alliance is essential to meeting the goals of national security. In her opening address at the first regional meeting of the committee, MIT President Susan Hockfield said:

This alliance forms the critical foundational infrastructure of our national defense. The questions that this committee addresses could not be more important for our nation's future. .In an increasingly global and interdependent world, what is the appropriate conceptual framework for national security? How do we organize science and engineering research in a way that takes globalization and global competition into account, while protecting America from people who would use that research for pernicious purposes? In the great tripartite innovation alliance between government, university and industry, two of these three partners are increasingly embedded in a global economy. Business and the Academy are essentially on an around-the-world tour together.111

Similar sentiments with regard to the need for university-government dialogue were expressed by Stanford University President John L. Hennessy, who told the committee that “In the post-9/11 era it is vital that we renew our commitment to the spirit of scientific inquiry and the search for new knowledge that galvanized us as a country in the fifties and sixties and this will involve, must involve an ongoing dialogue between the university community and the government.”

Although the government and university communities are working together to address science and security concerns, these interactions often are ad hoc, hastily convened, and in reaction to government policies that have been proposed without any initial input from the research community. Several commentators at the regional meetings observed that often the government responds to crises by over reaching. For example, Judith Reppy noted that:

The governmental response to change has been an increase in oversight and regulation of research. In many cases, these new regulations have been implemented with very little regard for the core values of the university, namely, the free and open exchange of information and non-discrimination in treatment of students, faculty and staff. These problems have been exacerbated in times of crisis.”112

The committee is reassured that communication between the security and academic communities is productive and is paying off and that government officials largely have been responsive and responsible. Significantly, the Department of Commerce retracted a proposed rule regarding deemed exports after listening carefully to the comments of the research community (see Chapter 2). In addition, the visa situation is improving for foreign scientists, with clearance times decreasing, better training at consulates, and foreign enrollments increasing after several years of decline (see Chapter 3). Furthermore, government agencies have sought the advice of the National Academies in the area of dual-use life sciences research and have created the NSABB (see Chapter 4). In addition, the Commerce Department’s establishment of an advisory committee to review deemed export policy is welcome. However, it must be noted that too often these responses occur only in reaction to serious concerns that spread through the research community—concerns that could have been avoided were there more proactive communication in advance of policy decisions. In addition, although improvements have been made, a number of unresolved issues remain.

The source and nature of the security threats now facing our country have changed. Similarly, the ability to secure information has changed with the advent of the internet and global exchange. Yet the policies that govern our ability to protect and the mechanisms that implement them have not been systematically reviewed and revised to reflect the current environment. The 2002 National Academies report Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism (2002) recommended that OSTP “…. Initiate immediately a dialogue between federal and state government and the research universities on the balance between protecting information vital to national security and the free and open way in which university research is…accomplished. This dialogue should take place before enactment of major policy changes affecting universities….” 113 The committee believes that these dialogues must be institutionalized to achieve an appropriate balance between science and security concerns so that policies affecting visas, deemed exports, and other restrictions on academic research can be discussed prior to formal government action.

Recommendation 12 : A deliberative, standing entity should be established to address ongoing shared concerns of the security and academic research communities, for example, implementation of NSDD-189, interpretation of deemed export policies, and visa policies and practices. This entity must have access to relevant data, which might require security clearances. Through consultation with the national and international security and research communities it should review and recommend policies affecting security and the conduct of research. Its membership should include high-level representatives of the national security and federal research agencies so as to ensure access to information and to guide implementation at programmatic levels. It also should include representatives of the academic and industrial science and engineering communities.

While there are a number of ways to implement this recommendation, the Committee recommends the establishment of a high-level Science and Security Commission, co-chaired by the National Security Advisor and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

As a starting point, the commission should address the recommendations that come from the recently established Commerce Department Deemed Exports Advisory Committee. In addition, the commission should review the fundamental assumptions underlying U.S. visa policies with respect to foreign students and scholars. Through this convening mechanism, federal research agencies and the academic research community should aim to work more closely with the national intelligence and security communities to increase mutual understanding. The establishment of this commission is an important step in building links between the research and intelligence/security communities.

Ongoing discussions must include data on the efficacy of restrictive policies on security as well as on the consequences of restrictive policies on research. Needed are better and more systematic methods for assessing risks. If we are to adopt, for example, control policies (e.g., for visas, exports, publications), such policies should be based on risk/benefit analyses (while managing risks), rather than on the current risk minimization policy. For example, the cost of one potential leak (e.g., through a deemed export) must be balanced against the national competitiveness and economic benefits gained from encouraging foreign students and scholars to come to American universities and perform fundamental research with minimal restrictions. Developing such methods for assessing and managing risks will require that all relevant communities be involved in the discussion.

Finally, because it is increasingly important to address not only national security but also international security, the U.S. government should enter into discussions with the global community about counter-threat measures. International collaboration, among nations of good will, could define conditions for sharing scientific information, cross-border contacts, collaborative research, peaceful application of nonhazardous inventions, cooperative research on medical technologies, and international cooperation on threat reduction and attack response. The proposed commission should pursue the best avenues for initiating such discussions.

The committee wrestled with where to house the proposed commission, considering OSTP or one of the research agencies such as NIH or NSF as the appropriate lead. However, in considering the need for the university community to better understand and appreciate the analysis, ethos, and concerns of the national security community, the committee opted for housing the commission at the National Security Council (NSC) and having it jointly co-chaired by the NSC Advisor and the OSTP Director. University presidents and other senior university administrators, many of whom have security clearances, should be appointed to the commission. Security clearances are critical to the commission so that the government can openly share information regarding credible threats with the university community. Furthermore, the committee believes that the research agencies and national security agencies, including the FBI, should have seats at the table. The committee considered whether the FBI’s National Security Higher Education Advisory Board (see below) could be expanded to fulfill the role of the proposed commission, but decided that the range of issues that should be considered and the level of interagency coordination that will be required would be more appropriately handled by an entity co-chaired by NSC and OSTP. Funding to support the staff for this activity should be provided by the research agencies, with Congress appropriating new funding for the commission.

Creating New Partnerships Between the Science and Security Communities

The intelligence/security and university research communities have limited understanding of each other’s cultures. Many in the intelligence community do not understand the importance of foreign students and the need for open scientific communication. Many in the university community do not understand the concerns of the intelligence community and the broader national security and defense establishment about the potential exploitation of academic research and adverse communication among adversaries and also do not understand the responsibilities export controls and select agents place on researchers.

Ongoing communication must involve honest exchanges about basic assumptions. For example, security professionals might assume that they will “take the fall” if research is misused, and scientists might assume that the increasing restrictions on research are evidence that research and researchers will (and have) become the prime suspects. There has been historical distrust between academe and law enforcement, but recent efforts to overcome this are encouraging.

In September 2005, the FBI announced the creation of a panel of university presidents—the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board—to advise the agency on how to improve relations with higher education. The panel provides the FBI with ideas about how to better understand academic culture and values and explore research areas that could promote national security. Robert S. Mueller III, Director of the FBI, said in a statement that the bureau wanted “to be sensitive to university concerns about international students, visas, technology export policy and the special culture of colleges and universities.”114 The committee was formed, in part, because many universities have been critical of the policies of the FBI and other security agencies since September 11, 2001, as needlessly intrusive or restrictive in the academic environment.115

Currently, the FBI’s law enforcement authority allows the agency to investigate university researchers and/or laboratories without university permission. The traditional tenets of openness and freedom to work on any scientific question often can clash with the culture of law enforcement. Because of negative responses to this use of power, the FBI has taken other measures. At the June 2006 regional meeting, Gretchen Lorenzi, an Intelligence Analyst with the FBI, described a new science and technology outreach program aimed at recognizing that the science community “has an ability to deal with and take responsibility for its own vulnerabilities, but that the FBI can be an asset in that fight.”116 Both communities should work together to identify critical infrastructure areas of vulnerability in the university setting. In a new environment of collaboration, the FBI should continue to work closely with the university community to establish protocols for carrying out investigations. However, universities also must take responsibility for improving understanding and cooperation with the security and intelligence communities.

Recommendation 13 : University leadership at the level of the senior vice president of research must educate administrators, faculty, and students about security, export controls, select agents, and other relevant policies and procedures, and must ensure compliance.

Raymond J. Clark, University of California, San Diego, recommended that there be more cross-training between the two communities, because it is the most effective way to promote understanding and communication. Clark noted the need for:

… increased recruitment by the security community itself. The security community, intelligence, State Department's Diplomatic Corps, Executive Branch agencies and Congress need to actively recruit from the S&T community at all levels of experience.117

Recommendation 14 : Universities should work closely with the relevant federal agencies to develop opportunities for scientists to participate in policy fellowships at intelligence and national security agencies and to develop opportunities for members of the intelligence and national security community to participate in fellowships at universities. The Intergovernmental Personnel Act Mobility Program should be explored as a mechanism for facilitating these exchanges.


Building partnerships between the science and security communities could help us as a Nation to better balance relative risks and benefits as viewed from the different perspectives of the university and security communities. Such collaboration will help educate the two communities in order to achieve a better understanding of the security issues and the consequences for science, higher education, and the future of the U.S. economy. The committee believes that enduring mechanisms should be created to maintain on an ongoing basis the important dialogue needed between these two communities. Improved relationships between these communities will improve awareness of issues before they become a source of controversy or confrontation, and they will help inform regulatory decisions with the appropriate technical and policy expertise.





Susan Hockfield. 2006. Remarks made at the Committee on a New Government-University Partnership for Science and Security Northeast Regional Meeting at MIT. May 15. Available at Accessed February 14, 2007.


Judith Reppy. 2006. Remarks made at the Committee on a New Government-University Partnership for Science and Security Northeast Regional Meeting at MIT. May 16. Available at . Accessed February 14, 2007. See transcript at pp. 4-13.


National Research Council. 2002. Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism. Washington, D.C., National Academies Press, p. 371.


“FBI Appoints National Security Higher Education Advisory Board.” 2005. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington, D.C. September 15.


Carol Zuiches. 2006. Remarks made at the Committee on a New Government-University Partnership for Science and Security Western Regional Meeting at Stanford University. September 27. Available at Accessed February 14, 2007.


Gretchen Lorenzi, 2006. Remarks made the Committee on a New Government-University Partnership for Science and Security Southeast Regional Meeting at the Georgia Institute of Technology. June 5. Available at Accessed February 15, 2007.


Raymond J. Clark, 2006. Remarks made at the Committee on a New Government-University Partnership for Science and Security Western Regional Meeting at Stanford University. September 27. Available at Accessed February 14, 2007.

Copyright © 2007, National Academy of Sciences.
Bookshelf ID: NBK11501


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