Publication of research results provides the vehicle for the widest dissemination, including to those who would misuse them. The Committee believes strongly that this part of the system should be based on the voluntary self-governance of the scientific community rather than formal regulation by government.
Proposals to limit publication have caused great concern and controversy among both scientists and publishers. The norm of open communication is one of the most powerful in science. To limit the information available in the methods section of journal articles would violate the norm that all experimental results should be open to challenge by others. But not to do so is potentially to provide important information to biowarfare programs in other countries or to terrorist groups.
Ultimately, any process to review publications for their potential national security risks would have to be acceptable to the wide variety of journals in the life sciences, both in the United States and internationally. The Committee believes that continued discussion among those involved in publishing journals — and between editors and the national security community — will be essential to creating a system that is considered responsive to the risks but also credible with the research community. The Committee believes that the statement produced by a group of editors from major life science journals in February 2003 is an important step in this process.
On the broader question of classification, the Committee believes that the principle set out by the Reagan Administration in 1985 in National Security Decision Directive 189 — that the results of fundamental research should be unrestricted to the maximum extent possible and that classification should be the mechanism for what control might be required — remains valid and should continue to be the basis for U.S. policy. The Committee's support for self-governance by the scientific community through appropriate reviews by journals and other publication outlets should not be construed as endorsing the creation of "sensitive but unclassified" information in the life sciences. The Committee believes that the risks of a chilling effect on biodefense research vital to U.S. national security as the result of inevitably general and vague categories is at present significantly greater than the risks posed by inadvertent publication of potentially
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