It is only through sustained attention to the integration of SBS research into its work that the IC can begin to more systematically take advantage of the opportunities described in this report. Indeed, technological and other developments in intelligence analysis that proceed without the benefit of SBS research are likely to be limited in their effectiveness, or worse, to result in misleading or distorted analysis.
Taking full advantage of this essential contribution will require effective and consistent collaboration between the IC and the SBS research community. The study process revealed some of the obstacles to integration and collaboration and showed that coordination between the two communities is less prevalent than it could be. Moreover, awareness of the potential applications of SBS research to IC needs is highly uneven across relevant SBS fields: many researchers may be unaware of the potential applications of their work to national security or reluctant to pursue such applications because of negative impressions of past collaborations.
Realizing most of the opportunities identified in this report will depend on the integration of research from SBS fields with work from technical fields including engineering, computer science, and neuroscience. Technological developments occur in a social and economic context: SBS research is therefore essential to understanding the potential applications and benefits, risks, and long-term effects of sophisticated technology and to its sound application, despite significant differences in theory and method between these two cultures.
As the key coordinator of the IC, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) can continue to play an important leadership role in fostering the critical ties between the IC and SBS researchers. The committee had no empirical foundation on which to base specific recommendations about institutional structures within the IC, and future efforts will need to be considered in light of particular efforts currently under way. Whatever structures are chosen, effective interchange is likely to involve four key ingredients:
- identifying and building on successful examples;
- strengthening bridges between the two communities;
- providing opportunities for analytic staff to build their knowledge of SBS research; and
- drawing on the principles of human–systems integration.
Although the objectives and perspectives of the SBS research community and the IC are not always aligned, the two communities have always had much to learn from one another. Researchers and members of the IC have differing objectives, face differing challenges and constraints, and operate in contexts that have very different norms and expectations. Nevertheless, collaborations between the two have for decades yielded important scientific and analytic insights.
This report comes at a critical time in the nation’s history. New threats, as well as complex new methods and tools analysts can use to understand trends and developments, identify immediate threats, and forecast future problems, are bringing profound changes. Without understanding of the human component of these developments, the IC analyst would be perilously hampered. However, capitalizing on the research opportunities discussed in this report will require the IC to abandon procedures and ways of doing business that have been in place for a long time. The continued strengthening of the IC workforce will depend on interdisciplinary approaches in which the insights and ideas of SBS researchers are fully integrated with the needs and objectives of the IC.