Those who complain that the U.S. government prefers to talk about the nation’s problems rather than solve them may think creating two forums to discuss science and national security is not a very constructive idea. But academic leaders say more dialogue is urgently needed on one issue now bedeviling the U.S. research community: how to best protect the country against its economic and military competitors without choking off international scientific collaborations and the free flow of people and ideas.
Responding to that concern, a bipartisan group of legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives today introduced a bill designed to promote talk that will spur action. The Securing American Science and Technology Act (SASTA) of 2019 would create a roundtable at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) in Washington, D.C., for stakeholders to discuss the tensions between science and security, as well as an interagency working group within the White House that would tackle the same issue. Backers hope the forums will help identify practical steps universities and research funders can take to protect valuable intellectual property without stifling global cooperation.
The SASTA proposal comes as universities and researchers, particularly scientists of Asian origin working in the United States, have become increasingly alarmed by recent government actions aimed at preventing foreign governments, especially China, from unfairly reaping the fruits of federal research investments. Recently, those efforts have led two U.S. universities to oust at least five biomedical researchers who they allege failed to properly disclose ties to Chinese institutions or committed other violations. All are Asian.