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The War on Terrorism versus The Free and Open Exchange of Scientific and Technical Information Michael J. Hopmeier Chief, Innovative and Unconventional.

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Presentation on theme: "The War on Terrorism versus The Free and Open Exchange of Scientific and Technical Information Michael J. Hopmeier Chief, Innovative and Unconventional."— Presentation transcript:

1 The War on Terrorism versus The Free and Open Exchange of Scientific and Technical Information Michael J. Hopmeier Chief, Innovative and Unconventional Concepts Unconventional Concepts, Inc. 426 E. Hollywood Blvd, Suite A Mary Esther, FL (850) , Fax (850) April 2003 © 2003 unconventional concepts inc

2 Turning Point in Science Publication  On September 19, 1918, a 21-year-old Army private reported to the Camp Jackson, S.C., base hospital feeling ill.  Within a week he was one of 21 million fatalities attributed to the influenza pandemic of  On March 21, 1997, almost exactly 80 years later, a team from AFIP published details of the disease genetic code in the journal Science and rekindled a debate on the freedom of scientific and technical information. © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 2

3  In March 1989, 8 years before the AFIP article, Fleishman and Ponds of the University of Utah published their findings on cold fusion.  Their results were immediately applauded, and derided, by numerous respected, and not so respected, researchers worldwide.  In November 1989, the Energy Research Advisory Board of the DOE was convened to review the issue.  They found that “…experimental results of excess heat from calorimetric cells reported to date do not present convincing evidence that useful sources of energy will result from phenomena attributed to cold fusion.” Cold Fusion © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 3

4 Cold Fusion (cont’d)  The board continued to discuss a variety of experiments and their equivocal results.  Key, however, is that there were other experiments, by other agencies, trying to duplicate the effort and either verify or repudiate the results. © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 4

5 “Science” As defined in Hypertext Webster Gateway at UCSD Accumulated and established knowledge, which has been systematized and formulated with reference to the discovery of general truths or the operation of general laws; knowledge classified and made available in work, life, or the search for truth; comprehensive, profound or philosophical knowledge © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 5

6 Science and Technical Information  Not used just to inform and educate  Used to support or repudiate research  The Energy Research and Advisory Board was not convened to evaluate cold fusion, but instead to consider whether to alter funding profiles to support cold fusion research!  Used to coordinate and focus research into areas of interest or value © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 6

7 “Power corrupts…”  “…And Absolute Knowledge can be a two-edged sword.”  Unquestionably, too much information can be dangerous......BUT SO CAN TOO LITTLE! © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 7

8 To Publish or Not To Publish…?  Themis, the Greek Goddess of Justice, was said to be blindfolded to better objectively evaluate the evidence placed before her.  We have the same responsibility in assessing the value of information. © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 8

9 A Simple Decision: Release or Not Release? 4 Right Wrong Release Withhold Let us consider the immediate effects on the decision maker. © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 9

10 Immediate Effects Release  Correct  Part of SOP  No specific impact  Everyone does his job © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 10

11 Immediate Effects (cont’d) Withhold  Correct  Perhaps minor complaints from those who wish to release  No public disclosure  Information not available © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 11

12 Immediate Effects (cont’d) Withhold  Wrong  Possible ineffectiveness of research  Limitations on further research  Possible limited damage to researcher’s career, but hard to determine  Overall, no clear or immediate negative impact © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 12

13 Immediate Effects (cont’d) Release  Wrong  Potential immediate adverse effects (attacks, assistance to adversaries)  Probable negative publicity  Necessity to immediately defend decision  Potential damage to decision maker’s career © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 13

14 Not Purely Self-Interest!  These decisions are generally made on the basis of the best information possible.  They are well thought-out and well considered.  But weighting is on the conservative—i.e., “don’t release.” © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 14

15 Issues Are Larger Than STI The 1997 DSB Transnational Threats Study noted information dissemination problems:  “Users” lacked critical data when and as needed.  Classification impeded the flow of critical information, the value of which may have outweighed the damage that release could cause.  Then, as now, there is no process by which these relative values can be assessed. © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 15

16 Solution Develop a process whereby we can assess and measure the impact of information, as it is both withheld and released. © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 16

17 Risk There is unquestionably a risk associated with releasing “sensitive” data.  We have all been trained to be aware and wary of this.  The effects are often obvious, immediate, and highly detrimental. © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 17

18 Risk (cont’d) There is an equally great—and possibly greater—risk in not releasing some information  SARS  HIV/AIDS  Combined research on strategic issues © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 18

19 Education To release or not release is neither a purely policy nor a purely scientific decision.  Scientific and technical personnel do not always have sufficient knowledge of the ramifications of their information release and can be short-sighted.  Policy personnel seldom have the background to grasp the significance if the information is related to science.  Both sides must be educated as to the impact of their decisions. © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 19

20 One Possible Answer Create a joint high-level committee to  consist of senior science and policy makers;  focus on creating guidelines and policies, not on evaluating particular technologies or research areas; and  provide guidance on creating and disseminating education and policy, not just dogma. © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 20

21 Final Analysis Risk  There is if we release information  There is if we don’t Balance  Is the only answer  Educate our people, at all levels, to be able to effectively weigh the risks  Make the best use of the resources we have, and accept that there will always be a threat — we just have to minimize it © 2003 unconventional concepts inc 21


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