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(NSDD-189) states that federally funded fundamental research, such as that conducted in universities and laboratories, should “to the maximum extent possible” be unrestricted.3 Where restriction is deemed necessary, the control mechanism is formal classification. “No restrictions may be placed upon the conduct or reporting of federally-funded fundamental research that has not received national security classification, except as provided in applicable US statutes.” The policy set out in NSDD-189 is still in force and has been reaffirmed by several senior George W. Bush administration officials.4

Over the years, reports and statements from the National Academies and other organizations have strongly supported the principle set forth in NSDD-189 as essential to maintaining the vitality of fundamental research in the United States.5 Some have suggested that President Bush should reissue the directive as a signal of its continuing importance and his administration’s commitment to scientific openness. Others are concerned that, given current controversies and security concerns, the interagency process necessary for such an action could result in a weaker presidential statement. At a minimum, the federal government could:

  • Continue to support the principle set forth in National Security Decision Directive 189 that federally funded fundamental research, such as that conducted in universities and laboratories, should “to the maximum extent possible” be unrestricted.


Serious concerns can arise over whether information is properly classified, whether too much information is classified, and how such decisions are made, but these debates over the classification of scientific research take place within a system of reasonably well-specified and understood rules. Far more problematic is the interest in designating certain areas of research


“Fundamental” research is defined as “basic and applied research in science and engineering, the results of which ordinarily are published and shared broadly within the scientific community, as distinguished from proprietary research and from industrial development, design, production and product utilization, the results of which ordinarily are restricted for proprietary or national security reasons.” National Security Decision Directive 189, September 21, 1985.


Letter to Dr. Harold Brown from Condoleeza Rice, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, November 1, 2001. John Marburger, Director of the Office of S&T Policy, Executive Office of the President, reaffirmed NSDD-189 in a speech to a workshop on “Scientific Openness and National Security” at the National Academies on January 9, 2003.


Recent examples include National Research Council. Assessment of Department of Defense Basic Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2005. P. 6; Center for Strategic and International Studies. Security Controls on Scientific Information and the Conduct of Scientific Research. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, June 2005.

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