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International Research Collaboration Is Vital, But So Is Security

December 11, 2019
Posted by Julianne Simpson
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Better engagement between IC and academia is needed to combat foreign influence.


The National Science Foundation (NSF) released a report today by the independent science advisory group JASON titled “Fundamental Research Security.”

The NSF commissioned the report this past summer to better understand the threats to basic research posed by foreign governments who seek to violate the principles of scientific ethics and research integrity.

Though the value of and need for foreign scientific talent in the U.S. has not changed, the landscape of international cooperation has shifted. The report found that today, a small group of nations hopes to benefit from the global research ecosystem without upholding the values of openness, transparency and reciprocal international collaboration on basic research.

Specifically, the efforts of the Chinese government and its institutions to acquire U.S. science and technology information have been a cause for concern in the intelligence community (IC). The Chinese are not unique in engaging in information collection and influence in the U.S. academic research enterprise, but they are likely the largest and best organized.

The NSF report indicates a need for better engagement between the IC and law enforcement, and the academic community, if the problem with foreign influence is going to be solved. There needs to be a common understanding between academia and the U.S. government agencies about how to best protect U.S. interests in fundamental research while maintaining openness and successfully competing in the global marketplace for STEM talent.

“We expect that a reinvigorated commitment to U.S. standards of research integrity and the tradition of open science by all stakeholders will drive continued preeminence of the U.S. in science, engineering and technology by attracting and retaining the world’s best talent,” the report states.

Across the federal government, research agencies are working together to address the challenges outlined in the report. These efforts include a new request for information issued by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Joint Committee on Research Environments that seeks input on how to keep research secure.

For more information, visit www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/jasonsecurity.

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