What are the risks of cooperating with foreign knowledge institutions? “There is no scientific branch that is not involved in it,” Minister Djgraf said today in the presentation of the Office of Knowledge Security.
Scientists love to communicate with colleagues from all over the world. Science is very international. The new minister, Robert Dijkgraf, is a good example himself: until recently he worked in the United States.
But cooperation is not always without risks. The government believes that there can be unwanted transfer of knowledge and covert influence in various ways. Higher education and research should be aware of this.
In an online meeting, Djgraph spoke a narrow path between two “trenches”. On the one hand, you can “unlock everything in a naive way”, and on the other hand you can “lock everything, and then it will not get oxygen”.
The minister believes that the world is changing. “The path may be thinner and thinner,” and a lot of people realize that. It is part of research and higher education in 2022. There are many different dimensions to it. There is really no branch of science that is not involved.”
Special “guiding principles” should help science make decisions about cooperation with countries such as Russia, China and Iran. The Knowledge Security Office has also been opened, where researchers and administrators can seek advice.
The new 50-page guideline not only addresses issues of national security, cybersecurity, and the employment of researchers; Ethics play a role, too. How do you work with countries where human rights are not respected?
China hardly appears in the text. It just refers to the China Defense University Tracker, where you can find out about the universities associated with the Chinese military. Less than a year ago, the university magazine Delta wrote an article that sparked a lot of controversy: “How TU Delft inadvertently extended a helping hand to the Chinese army.”
Ultimately, government relies on self-regulation. Therefore, institutions must make reasonable choices themselves. It must be at the level: “Procedures relating to knowledge security must not ‘overturn’ and lead to arbitrary exclusion, suspicion or discrimination.”
If the establishments are unable to find a solution, they can therefore contact the counter. “But the abacus does not have a monopoly on wisdom, it is not a revelation,” says Djgraf. He also said: “This is an intermediate step, everything is moving. It is an educational organization.”
The counter is part of the Dutch Enterprise Agency. Simple questions take a maximum of three days, and more complex questions are expected to take a little longer.
Universities and universities of applied sciences contributed to the guideline, as well as the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and science funder NWO. Several ministries and services of the national government also contributed ideas.
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