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Maintaining the Balance Between Scientific Freedom and National Security
Against the backdrop of the nation's current war on terrorism, AAAS will sponsor a symposium this December to consider the delicate balance between the demands of national security and the need to protect scientific freedom and human rights.
"While many of the new security measures are clearly necessary, it is essential that the scientific community be engaged in evaluating them and their impacts on the environment for research," says Al Teich, director of the AAAS Directorate for Science and Policy Programs. "Scientists and engineers must also carefully consider their own professional and personal roles in this very dynamic and highly charged political environment."
The symposium, entitled "The War on Terrorism: What Does It Mean for Science?," is scheduled for 18 December, beginning at 8:45 a.m. and concluding at 3:45 p.m. (with coffee at 8 a.m.). Among the speakers will be John H. Marburger III, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Louis W. Goodman, Dean of the School of International Service, American University; Robert M. O'Neil, Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression; William Wulf, president of the National Academy of Engineering; Eric Drexler, Foresight Institute; Jonathan D. Moreno, Center for Biomedical Ethics, University of Virginia; and Donald Kerr, head of science and technology for the Central Intelligence Agency. The discussion will focus on the proposed restructuring of the federal government in response to terrorism and what the impact might be on the conduct of science. Speakers will also address the impact of new rules on foreign students at US universities, and whether increases in incidents of racism and xenophobia could infect science.
The symposium will raise several questions regarding how scientists should respond to the new climate:
--What responsibilities do scientists and engineers have for the uses of their discoveries?
--What responsibilities do scientists and engineers have to contribute to national security? Do they have a responsibility to avoid or suppress research or findings that can be used by hostile powers, including terrorists?
--What principles of conduct should guide scientists and engineers in their work on matters that pose potentially high risk to human life?
Marburger, who will give the keynote address, was invited, Teich says, "because he has the broadest view of the federal science establishment and its connections with the National Security Council and the Office of Homeland Security. Dr. Marburger is the most able to bring together the administration's perspective on terrorism and what the role of science and technology might be in addressing it."
Teich notes that federal appropriations bills for FY 2002, which began at the end of October, contain numerous elements that reflect new concerns on the part of Congress and the President. The change in priorities can be seen in increases in military R&D and R&D on bioterrorism, blast protection, information security, and other relevant fields. Under consideration as well are national security measures to protect US citizens and vital national interests.
"The war on terrorism has driven almost everything else off the agenda," Teich says.
The symposium is an activity of the AAAS Project on Scientific Freedom and National Security and is cosponsored by the AAAS Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility. On-line registration forms and a complete program of events is available at www.aaas.org/spp/scifree/terrorism. Journalists are welcome to attend.
-- Coimbra Sirica