The current U.S. Government view of its security requirements is leading to newly severe pressure to militarize scientific research. This has potential dangers for academic life, as well as for the health of Canadian research and economic development. The attempt is to control stringently the flow of information on unclassified research in broad areas. This brief article will describe developments in the U.S. and then comment on their likely implications from a Canadian perspective.
The moves stem from alarm over the “hemorrhage of technology” — i.e., the availability of U.S. scientific and technical information to other nations, in particular the U.S.S.R., and its possible military use. The U.S. Department of Defence issued a report in January of 1982 in which it claimed that published U.S. research has been useful to Soviet weapons development. That report takes the position that essentially all high technology now has military impact. It therefore urges that release even of unclassified research results should be controlled; this has been reiterated elsewhere — for example by Admiral Inman (former Deputy Director of the C.I.A.) in addressing the AAAS meeting in the same month.
As one mechanism for this control the D.O.D. report proposes that D.O.D. contracts should stipulate that all research results be submitted for prerelease review: those deemed “sensitive” would not be made public. The report envisages extending such requirements to all U.S. Government funding agencies (presumably including N.I.H., N.S.F., etc.) and eventually even to research funded by industry or funded within the Universities! Nor is it only a question of unpublished articles, but of censorship too at scientific meetings and even in private conversation. As yet there are no regulations in effect allowing actual prohibition of the publication of unclassified material, but instead recipients of D.O.D. grants must submit proposed publications for “review and comment”. The inhibiting effect of this is easy to imagine, and the consequences are already appearing. A recent article by Stephen Strauss (Globe and Mail, January 3, 1983) cites case after case of U.S. scientists who no longer feel free to share their work, due to pressure from their D.O.D. granting agencies: there is danger of censorship becoming self-policing. A striking instance was the last-minute withdrawal, at D.O.D. behest, of 100 papers from the annual meeting of the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (San Diego, August, 1982). At least one professional organization, the Public Cryptography Study Group, has accepted voluntarily the review procedure proposed by the D.O.D. A second mechanism proposed for controlling the flow of information is to restrict personal contacts through limitations on the number and activities of foreign students and visitors in the U.S. — this could have a direct effect on Canadian scientists.
U.S. scientists are of course alarmed by this pressure. As one result the AAAS Committee on Scientific Freedom and1Responsibility has begun to publish a Bulletin of information and comments. In this forum and elsewhere scientists have expressed, besides their fears for the traditional openness of academic work (in the “free world”), the opinion that thatopenness is a sine qua non of the continued health of U.S. technology and finally its economic well-being. They point as well to the lack of confidence one must finally have when work is not made public and thus is not subject to peer review 9d criticism. In September the National Academy of Sciences published a report by its Panel on Scientific Communication and National Security in which it reviewed the subject rather thoroughly. It rejected much of the D.O.D. argument and made alternative proposals in which less stringent consultation procedures would apply to a narrowly-defined “grey area” of sensitive fields.
The effectiveness of these responses from the scientific community remains to be seen; the scientists’ outcry is no doubt muted by the large role the D.O.D. plays in funding U.S. research.
As Canadian scientists we will scarcely be heard in Washington, and we are of course partly shaltered from the direct impact of these censorship policies. In some ways, however, we are probably worse off than U.S. scientists, because there will be fields — the most important and timely technological fields — in which as foreigners we will be left completely “out in the cold”. This will have drastic effects on the relevance of our research efforts and dismal long-run economic repercussions for Canada. (Indeed it is fair to ask whether the U.S. Government’s attempt to control the flow of technological-information is not directed as much against the industrial development of “friends” like Japan and Germany and Canada as against the military development of the U.S.S.R.) Canada’s technological base is probably too small for us to surge ahead on our own in many fields. There is no reason to expect Canada to be excepted from this plight. Indeed we could seek relief from it only by accepting further involvement in U.S. military endeavours, only by accepting U.S. control and possible confiscation of the results of our research, only at the expense of scientific freedom.
Many Canadian scientists now hold U.S. D.O.D. grants for research. They must face the fact that such grants are offered only if their work “has a direct and apparent relationship to a specific military function or operation”. However sanguine (sic) they may be about that, their dilemma will be heightened if the D.O.D. becomes able to prohibit dissemination of the results of their research.
Faced with real or apparent exclusion from broad ranges of U.S. technological research, other nations (including Canada) may well react by trying to limit release of their own advanced information. This “snowball” effect would have drastic effects not only on minor industrial countries like our own, but on the progress of the scientific and of the economic development of the whole world.
In the case of Canada such a ‘reactive’ response is apt to be confused by one of complicity, due to ou NATO and NORAD ties with the U.S. In a previous issue of this Bulletin we pointed out that the Canadian Government was attempting to encourage Canadian Universities to seek contracts under the U.S.-Canada Defence Development Sharing Agreement. This move followed Reagan!s 1981 visit to Ottawa. We commented on its inappropriateness to Canadian science policy. At the same time there was an attempt to make Canadian Government research contracts dependent on the recipient’s seeking security clearance from the Department of Supply and Services (formerly Department of Defence Production)! At the University of Toronto at least this was successfully rejected. Whether the attempt sprang from U.S. concern over the “hemorrhage of technology” is not certain. How will our Government react to further U.S. pressure to restrict the flow of information? Given the close “defence” ties between the two nations I believe we should be on the lookout for Canadian Government cooperation in attempts to limit the flow of unclassified material. To combat it we must share information and opinions on these matters: we would be happy to hear from you in this regard. On our own Government we can perhaps have some influence.
1 The Bulletin of the AAAS Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility (chairman Leonard Reiser, Dartmouth College). Inquiries to the Committee, c/o the AAAS, at 1515 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005, U.S.A. I believe they will send copies to interested scientists. ^
2 The report on Scientific Communication and National Security was published by and is available from the National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Avenue, LW., Washington, D.C. 20418, U.S.A. ^
3 Science for War? Science for Peace Bulletin, Vol. 2, No. 1 (February, 1982), #82.10 ^
John P. Valleau
Chemistry, University of Toronto
ISSN 1925-170X (Print) | ISSN 1925-1718 (Online)