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Valuing Both Open Scientific Inquiry and National Security

The White House’s Guidance on Implementing National Security Presidential Memorandum 33 Strikes an Encouraging Tone

New guidance from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to federal agencies on implementing National Security Presidential Memorandum 33 is encouraging for America’s scientific research enterprise. The original memorandum, which was released at the end of the previous administration, directs federal agencies to “strengthen protections of United States Government-supported Research and Development (R&D) against foreign government interference and exploitation.”

The Biden administration’s guidance on its implementation is crucial to ensuring that NSPM-33 is effective in helping to safeguard federally funded scientific research and related intellectual property without stifling global scientific collaboration or creating unnecessary burdens.

The implementation guidance is outlined in a report developed by the National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Research Security of the Joint Committee on the Research Environment. The report includes a number of agency guidelines based on principles for NSPM-33 implementation that Eric Lander, the president’s science advisor and director of OSTP, outlined in an August 2021 blog post : to protect America’s security and openness; to be clear so that well-intentioned researchers can easily and properly comply with requirements; and to ensure that policies do not fuel xenophobia or prejudice.

The report specifically focuses on five key areas addressed by NSPM-33: disclosure requirements and standardization, digital persistent identifiers, consequences for violation of disclosure requirements, information sharing, and research security programs.

The new guidance includes several important provisions:

  • Establishing standardized disclosure requirements across federal agencies for researchers.

  • Enabling researchers to use standardized reporting tools like electronic curricula vitae and digital persistent identifier services and platforms to make compliance easy and uncomplicated. These forms and instructions are to be developed by federal agencies within 120 days.

  • Creating specific and consistent guidelines, under all applicable laws and regulations, for determining appropriate consequences when researchers violate disclosure requirements.

  • Providing clarity and consistency to federal agencies on how they may share information about violations and potential violations with each other consistent with due process, privacy considerations, and other applicable law.

  • Ensuring that agencies implement NSPM-33 “in a nondiscriminatory manner that does not stigmatize or treat unfairly members of the research community, including members of ethnic or racial minority groups.”

Our staff will continue reviewing this new guidance and providing additional information and analysis to our members on it, but our initial evaluation is that the guidance takes a big step forward that will help advance both U.S. science and national security.

The guidance accomplishes this by recognizing two essential interests: Safeguarding federally funded scientific research from malign foreign actors and ensuring that the world’s best and brightest researchers continue to be drawn to, and welcome at, America’s leading research universities to engage in cutting-edge scientific discovery. We will continue our work to ensure that America achieves both critical objectives.