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Playing Politics with ScienceBalancing Scientific Independence and Government Oversight$
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David B. Resnik

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195375893

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195375893.001.0001

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Science and National Security

Science and National Security

(p.133) 6 Science and National Security
Playing Politics with Science

David B. Resnik (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines conflict between science and national security. Though the protection of national security represents a legitimate reason for restricting the autonomy of scientists, scientific organizations, and scientific institutions, this rationale should be applied carefully to protect both the rights of individual scientists and the reliability and objectivity of science. To justify classification of government‐sponsored research, a clearly defined national security interest must be at stake. Classification should be used only when necessary and withdrawn when no longer needed, and research should never be classified for purely political reasons. Censorship of nongovernment science represents a grave threat to scientific progress, creativity, and innovation, and the government should avoid censorship of nonclassified research. The best way to restrict publication of research with national security implications is for scientists to police themselves. Journal editors and other gatekeepers must consider benefits, risks, and options concerning dissemination. Since restrictions on the dissemination of information can significantly harm scientific progress, the burden of proof must fall on those who propose prevention of dissemination. The threat to national security must be a plausible threat based on sound evidence; if threats are identified, scientists should take reasonable measures to prevent them from materializing.

Keywords:   science, national security, classified research, censorship, publication

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