Jasons ordered to close up shop

This is an interesting development. The Jasons Group is an elite cadre of academics who have conducted research studies for the DOD on a variety of topics over the last 60 years or so. More recently NSF has been interested in hiring the Jasons to look at the increasingly challenging climate for international collaborations between US scientists and their foreign counterparts (something that I have written a bit about). Now this news, that the Jasons contract with DOD is to be terminated. Given the views of the Administration on international collaborations of any kind, I wonder if the two things are related?

Putting a chill on international science…

I saw this piece by Jeff Mervis in SCIENCE today. Basically, if you are supported by NIH and you appear to them to be more “connected” to other nation states than you have explicitly disclosed, your institution may have some explaining to do. As Jeff points out, this can be somewhat confusing, since most productive scientists (particularly in biomedical research) do their work in a manner that crosses-borders–just like Ebola or SARS. This new NIH action affects the many, not the few.¬† As I’ve said from my time at the bully pulpit: science is inherently international. When you publish a journal article, it is read by your colleagues all over the globe (at least if it’s good science). And that dissemination is key to producing more excellent science.

I have no problem with disclosing contacts (although there is a paperwork burden). But creating a culture of intimidation that puts a chill on international collaboration–that is a problem.

International science: at risk?

According to SCIENCE magazine, the NIH is taking a serious look at US funded research products (including ideas, data and intellectual property) leaking to other nations–particularly near-peer competitors such as China. This is not happening in a political vacuum: the current trade tensions between the US Administration and China come to mind. And there have been concerns from Congress even before the 2016 election.

I don’t doubt that there have been instances of bad behavior by individual scientists, particularly those with dual allegiances. But I also passionately believe that the really tough scientific questions require an intellectual approach–look at Higgs in particle physics or the various brain research initiatives. Big science requires a big tent.

I hope we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water here.

France and a new super R1 university…

From Inside Higher Education, here. Money quote:

Five grandes écoles (leading French universities) should be formally merged to form a Parisian science and technology university emulating the likes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the French government has been told.

I think this quite a cool idea. And fits with President Macron’s recent interest in investing a lot of new money in science. Post-Brexit, France has a real opportunity in building a science powerhouse.