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After the coup: preserving 'Soviet' R&D.

However bad the outlook for U.S. defense workers, it's nowhere near as dismal as the prospects facing scientist and engineers throughout the former Soviet Union (FSU), both inside and outside its defense industry. At the behest of Presidential Science Adviser D. Allan Bromley, some 120 prominent U.S. research leaders convened in Washington, D.C., on March 3 to brainstorm how they might aid their foreign colleagues. In a letter to Bromley issued last week, the trio who chaired that workshop synthesized its finding into 15 key recommendations. Because "time is of the essence," they argued, "whenever possible, implementation [of these recommendations] should begin within the next several months."

In their letter, Frank Press, president of the National Academy of Sciences; H. Guyford Stever, commissioner of the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology and Goverment; and Ashton B. Carter, director of the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, noted that:

* many of the best former Soviet research facilities "are standing idle and may soon atrophy."

* an internal and external "brain drain" is rapidly eroding the onetime communist state's human resources. "Of special concern," the letter notes: "Temptations are increasing for FSU military scientists to look abroad for opportunities."

* leaders within the former Soviet Union "will soon be making critical decisions in areas such as research priorities, intellectual property rights, and education accreditation." As a result, "there are one-time opportunities to influence these decisions," and the United States can play a leadership role among Western powers "if we act quickly."

The United States, Russia and Germany have already agreed to set up an International Center for Science and Technology in Moscow. Though the three nations have yet to set the final scope of its activities, organizers expect the new center will eventually become a clearinghouse for research projects involving groups with weapons expertise, and a matchmaker for funding sources and researchers both inside and outside the former Soviet Union. Cooperative research programs initiated through this center "would be the most effective means for achieving U.S. goals of shrinking and redirecting FSU weapons-R&D programs," the letter to Bromley states.

A weapons-science working group at the March 3 meeting urged the U.S. government to work toward prompt establishment of this new center and to award it at least $25 million in start-up funds under the Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Act of 1991, a $400 million program created by Congress last year. The letter to Bromley also recommends earmarking another $25 million for non-weapons scientists.

Other recommendations from the March 3 meeting include: further reduction of unnecessary export controls, expecially in the fields of computers and telecommunications; U.S. grants to help convert FSU non-nuclear military technologies to civilian applications; establishing a fund to help replenish and refurbish equipment, journals and books; expanded cooperation in environmental research; and immediate implementation of scientist-to-scientist collaboration with with FSU colleagues under Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy and the Office of Naval Research.
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Title Annotation:research and development
Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 21, 1992
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