If active collaboration with U.S., European, and Japanese scientists is key to the ISTC's longer-term viability, as the committee believes it is, a new approach may be required. The U.S. science community should play a larger role in working with Russian institutes toward proposing and funding proposals that are in areas of specific U.S. interest. In some cases, scientists and engineers in the FSU may have a technical or financial comparative advantage in particular research projects that would complement research already funded in the United States. This would serve to bring about closer face-to-face contacts by U.S. and Russian scientists and serve U.S. scientific and technological interests. To a certain degree, the other ISTC parties are moving toward this approach—for example, Japan's focus on nuclear energy projects.
In addition to increasing contacts between ISTC project participants and their Western collaborators, the scope of Western contacts should be expanded. To date, U.S. collaborators have primarily been national weapons laboratories. This is natural in view of the required involvement of Russian weapons institutes as well as desirable given the nonproliferation goals of the ISTC. However, there are good reasons for increased contacts with university scientists, which could further the center 's civilian and conversion objectives. The National Science Foundation and other scientific societies and organizations already are taking steps to facilitate and fund communication and collaboration between scientists in the FSU and U.S. universities. Because of their ties to the U.S. academic community, those organizations are in a good position to further communication between former weapons scientists and engineers and U.S. universities. While the costs of active collaboration can be high and often more difficult for universities to bear, from the U.S. standpoint, the longer-term benefits of expanding contacts between our scientists and those in Russian institutes would be valuable.
There are also good reasons for expanding contacts and collaboration with U.S. industrial laboratories. In the long run, wealth for the FSU in large measure will be generated by applied science and engineering, rather than basic research. The ISTC can promote the future economic viability of the FSU and, with it, increase domestic funding sources for scientific research by encouraging FSU scientists and engineers, especially from the closed cities, to collaborate with U.S. industrial researchers. Industrial researchers have more experience in market-oriented research and venture capital formation.
The ISTC's priority has been, and must continue to be, reaching scientists and engineers from FSU weapons institutes. However, there are certain emerging areas of science and technology that are not necessarily found in weapons institutes but that are likely to be “wealth generators ” in the near future—for example, microelectronics, biotechnology, and computer and information technology. The ISTC, while maintaining its focus on the weapons institutes, can encourage those institutes to collaborate and seek partnerships with institutes with strengths in these emerging technologies.
RECOMMENDATION: The ISTC should place more emphasis on involving biological and chemical warfare institutes in its activities.
As noted in the previous chapter, only 7 percent of the scientists funded by ISTC grants at the end of 1995 had a background in chemical or biological warfare research. Because of the lingering suspicion and secrecy surrounding these institutes, it is particularly important that the ISTC continue its efforts to increase integration of these scientists. The specific challenge for the ISTC and other agencies is to establish communications across former Biopreparat and Ministry of Defense institutes. A very positive example of how the ISTC has made progress in this area is the symposium it sponsored on biological warfare issues in Pokrov in December 1995. The symposium was attended by a number of scientists, including some from the Ministry of Defense. The committee believes that the ISTC should continue its efforts in this area through similar meetings and activities.
In addition, based on the committee's conclusion that U.S. biotechnology firms can benefit from collaborating with former biological warfare institutes in the FSU, the ISTC can make a difference by bringing in representatives from the biotechnology industry as partners in precompetitive research.
RECOMMENDATION: The ISTC should allow grants to fund communications equipment.
Computer networking and access to the Internet are no longer a luxury but an essential need. They facilitate the exchange and retrieval of information, conferencing among colleagues in different locations, and remote execution of programs. Access to computer networks is particularly important in countries such as Russia, where other means of communication remain unreliable. Yet in many institutes, particularly those outside Moscow, the committee was told that lack of adequate communications systems remains a significant problem. Scientists at the Research Center for Applied Microbiology in Obolensk, for example, admitted they have trouble communicating not only with colleagues in the West but also with other institutes in Moscow and Russia.
The ISTC has funded several projects that are intended to improve communications abilities in the FSU. For example, researchers at the Scientific Production Association Luch in Podolsk are developing hardware and software for transferring medical data.6 Such projects are important, but the committee also recommends allowing grant recipients to request and allocate a percentage of funds to buy communications equipment. This will assist individual researchers and institutes in gaining access to the Internet, communicating with colleagues, and developing collaborations and thus will have an exponential impact on their future economic viability.
ISTC Project #52, “Hardware and software for medical wide area network,” NPO Lutch, Podolsk, Russia.