Friday, 1 July 1988
"COMMERCIALLY VALUABLE" TECHNICAL INFORMATION GENERATED BY
could not be "disclosed to the public"
under a provision slipped into The Department of Energy National
Laboratory Cooperative Research Initiatives Act (S.1480). The
proposed legislation leaves it up to the laboratory director to
decide whether information generated by the laboratory has
commercial value. Technical data or computer software fitting
this description would not be considered as agency records under
the Freedom of Information Act and could not be made public by
publication in journals or presentation at conferences. Imagine
the Director's dilemma! If the Director certifies that work has
no commercial value, it raises questions about why it is being
done. The alternative, however, is to cut the laboratory off
from normal scientific discourse. The non-disclosure provision
was added on to an otherwise benign piece of competitiveness
legislation proposed by Sen. Domenici (R-NM). The purpose of the
bill is to foster cooperation among universities, industry and
national laboratories in biotechnology, superconductivity and
semiconductors. The non-disclosure addition is an attempt to
revive the corpse of the Superconductivity Competitiveness Act of
1988, an equally dumb proposal the President sent to Congress
back in February (WN 26 Feb 88).
Fortunately, it was ignored to death when it failed to pick up
a single sponsor
(WN 18 Mar 88).
. A TORONTO SYMPOSIUM ON SEVERE NUCLEAR ACCIDENT CHEMISTRY
was disrupted at the last minute by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
which informed researchers at national laboratories that foreign
travel restrictions applied and NRC contract funds could not be
used to attend. The symposium, which took place in June, was
part of the American Chemical Society's Third North American
Congress. Symposium organizers charged the NRC had deliberately
attempted to suppress public discussion of severe accident
chemistry. The NRC says it was just tight travel funds.
3. SECURITY AT THE STRATEGIC DEFENSE INITIATIVE ORGANIZATION
will be reexamined following the theft of two computers and
associated software from SDIO's Pentagon offices on consecutive
nights in April. SDIO officials initially sought to portray the
thefts as minor, but an investigation by a local television
station now suggests that it may have been far more serious.
There is concern that the stolen equipment could be used to
access major data banks or to infect the system with a virus.
4. CHINA IS SEEKING THE RETURN OF RESEARCHERS IN THE US.
Last year they asked the State Department to compel the return of 1500
scholars for a two year residency. They can be compelled to
return under the terms of the J-1 visa, if their skills Dare in
short supply back home, or if their government paid their
expenses. Many of them came over before the skills list existed
and received only a travel loan, but the US is set to acquiesce.