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Export controls and research results.

Export controls and research results

The controversy over government controls on the publicationof research results for the sake of preventing Soviet acquisition of military technology started off as a highly charged argument about freedom and national security. It appeared to pit heavy-handed bureaucrats against bewildered academic scientists. During the last year, however, the situation has become quieter and less confused (SN: 10/19/85, p.248). "We have reached a reasonably stable state,' says political scientist David A. Wilson of the University of California at Los Angeles. Wilson directed the Export Controls Information Project for the Department of Defense-University Forum, an advisory body to the Department of Defense, and the Association of American Universities (AAU), based in Washington, D.C.

The project has produced a set of publications explainingpresent government policy on national security and export controls as it affects university research. The AAU has started to distribute the documents to universities and scientific societies. The publications, says Wilson, "are designed to reduce confusion about these complicated and sensitive matters and to assist institutions in responding appropriately in the event questions arise during the normal course of research project development or implementation.'

The current set of laws and regulations governing exportcontrols strongly endorses the idea of open, unencumbered fundamental research. This legal regime, says Wilson, "permits us to operate with the expectation that there will be virtually no extraordinary controls or constraints.' Whatever controls a researcher may be asked to accept are negotiated before the research begins and should be clearly stated in any contract between the researcher's university and the government agency involved.

Nevertheless, several export-control issues have not yetbeen resolved. The government task force responsible for deciding how to handle foreign access to supercomputers can't reach an agreement on the issue (SN: 3/22/86, p.185). The Export Administration Regulations, after two years, are still in draft form. Government officials may seek further revisions in the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. The debate over setting security standards for unclassified but "sensitive' data in computer data bases continues (SN: 5/16/87, p.314).

That's why the AAU is distributing the regulations andrelated documents in a loose-leaf, three-ring binder, says AAU's John C. Crowley. Although the situation is now less violatile, it can still change.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 1, 1987
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