October 18, 2007 / 9:00 PM / 12 years ago

U.S. advisers urge creating science security panel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government should create a body to foster the free flow of scientific knowledge and researchers from other countries while balancing the threat from enemies, an expert panel said on Thursday.

The National Research Council said U.S. policies should continue to promote the open exchange of unclassified research, despite the small risk that some could be misused by terrorist groups or “rogue” countries.

The panel appointed by the council, which provides advice to U.S. policymakers, said U.S. colleges and research institutions must continue to bring in foreign-born science and engineering students. “The global scientific enterprise thrives on the movement of students and scholars across borders and among institutions,” the panel said in a report.

“For more than 50 years, U.S. research universities — the envy of the world — have welcomed and fostered the talents of both foreign-born and U.S. students in the service of national and economic security,” the report reads.

With fewer U.S. students choosing scientific and engineering careers, the U.S. research and development effort cannot be sustained without a significant and steady infusion of foreign-born participants, the committee said.

But safeguards are needed to ensure sensitive research does not fall into the wrong hands, the panel said.

It recommended creating a standing government commission “to address ongoing shared concerns of the security and academic research communities,” including export and visa policies and participation of foreign-born people in research.

The commission should be co-chaired by the U.S. president’s national security adviser and the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and include representatives from academic research institutions and national security agencies, the panel recommended.

Forming this commission should enable the government to strike a balance between science and security, the panel said.

Since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, research institutions have taken steps to address security concerns, said Jacques Gansler of the University of Maryland, co-chairman of the committee.

“However, both the security and scientific communities agree that losing our leading edge in science and technology is one of the greatest threats to national security. Unnecessary or ill-conceived restrictions could jeopardize the scientific and technical progress that our nation depends upon,” Gansler, a former Pentagon official, said in a statement.

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