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Symposium Reveals Challenges to Science in War on Terrorism
President Bush's science advisor told an audience at a AAAS symposium on 18 December that the Bush Administration is dedicated to "winning the war on terrorism and employing science and technology in this endeavor."
John H. Marburger III addresses symposium on science and terrorism.
Photo Credit: Eric Grammer
In a keynote address for the event entitled, "The War on Terrorism: What Does it Mean for Science?" John H. Marburger III, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, also told the group that anti-terrorism efforts would not draw funds away from other research priorities.
"I want to cool down the fever of concern in the scientific community that research funding and opportunities will be diverted into serving the needs of the military as in World War II," Marburger said.
The symposium was held as Congress and the Bush Administration considered significant new national security measures to protect the United States and its citizens, and Marburger cautioned the participants at the symposium that there are security risks inherent in much of the work done by US scientists.
Several of the participants on the panels that followed Marburger's talk said they were worried about the impact such concerns could have on scientific freedom and the openness that has led to excellence in the American scientific enterprise. Robert M. O'Neil, Director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, noted that institutional reactions to the 11 September attacks had begun to be felt in academic and research settings around the country. "Since September 11," O'Neill said, "librarians around the country have been asked to destroy a CD-rom directory of US dams and reservoirs; at least 15 federal agencies have removed or adjusted information on their web sites, and some foreign scientists have been barred access to certain materials."
Anne Witkowsky, Director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies Commission on Science and Security, argued that, "sound security and excellence in
science can coexist."
"Science is continually becoming more collaborative across borders and between government and private institutions...The challenge is to maintain a balance between keeping information secure and retaining the scientific premise of openness."
Louis W. Goodman, Professor and Dean of American University's School of International Service, agreed, noting that, "Science works best in an open and secure environment."
Panelists in the afternoon session on "Revisiting Scientists' Responsibilities" noted the importance of involving the scientific and engineering communities in assessing the threat posed by terrorists and in developing a research agenda for investigating the roots of terrorism.
Al Teich, director of the AAAS Directorate for Science and Policy Programs, said that the federal government was asking scientists for help, "with living in a disorderly world."
"The government has asked all of us to find what adversaries value," said Teich. "How we will live in disorder will involve science and technology and those of us in the political community. AAAS will be part of this process."
More information is available on the AAAS Science and Policy Programs Website.
-- Coimbra Sirica