New ways to keep research safe: open access and science diplomacy

The government is keen to protect university research safe  from foreign powers, with cyber security oversight, approval of agreements and an inquiry into foreign interference– there are other ways

Australia is an open-research society, with 60 per cent of publications being collaborations with international partners (39 per cent in the US). This is a good thing- but it is going to get harder, Paul Harris warns.

Governments and research institutions are right to increasingly focus on the challenges of ‘illiberal innovation’ in China and elsewhere,” he says.

The director of ANU’s US office points to, “the risks of foreign interference and intellectual property theft, and the application of science and technology by authoritarian governments to uses contrary to democratic values and human rights.”

“A key challenge for 21st century policy and diplomacy will be how to remain connected to the cutting-edge of global science and technology – wherever it might now be – without compromising national security, sovereignty or values,” he suggests in a new paper for ANU’s National Security College, released this morning.

Mr Harris proposes Australia create “global data-sets on scientific publications” to ensure government and researchers know who is doing what where, “to support better decisions about the benefits and risks of science engagement.”

And while Australia should “prioritise engagement”, for example with Five Eyes partners (US, UK, Canada, Aus and NZ), “we should be wary of locking ourselves in with a small number of partners who represent a declining share of global science.”

It is, he suggests in the national interest for researchers to continue to collaborate with China, without compromising “our security or values.”

Easier said than done, but Mr Harris proposes three ways;

* “intelligence and science communities create the open-source scitech analysis capability “to inform policy and strategy”

* the Chief Scientist (Cathy Foley) and Chief Defence Scientist (Tanya Monro) “evaluate how current investments and institutions should be adjusted given changes in the global system, and;

* DFAT develop science diplomacy “for international engagement in the national interest”