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Archive for Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Task force working to develop new classified research policy

February 22, 2006

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Economic development. Discrimination. Access to cutting-edge research.

Kansas University's classified research policy hits on a web of issues - all of which faculty must wade through as they attempt to help the university craft a new policy.

"I think everybody recognizes the significance of the issue," said Charles Epp, an associate professor of public administration.

Epp and other members of a KU task force are studying the issue of classified research, which has outside - usually government or corporate - limitations on its use or dissemination among fellow scholars and the public.

Members hope to bring recommendations for a new policy to KU's University Council for a vote this spring. The task force is having a series of forums, including one Tuesday, to gather faculty input on the topic.

"I don't think we're going to fundamentally change where KU policy is at present," said Epp, who has voiced concerns about KU relaxing its classified research policies. "I think we'll tweak it in key areas, but some of the tweaks may be pretty significant."

The current policy restricts research that is completely classified or research that could be used to kill people. Research that is temporarily classified is permitted in some circumstances. And projects that cannot be reported in appropriate detail because of outside restrictions can't be considered for merit raises, promotion and tenure.

Some key issues that may be hammered out for future policy include:

¢ What types of research KU researchers will be permitted to conduct.

¢ Whether classified research could be considered in merit evaluations or in decisions of promotion and tenure.

¢ Whether some faculty and students should have access to research that other KU faculty and students cannot access.

¢ Whether KU will allow outside parties to restrict access to research by foreign nationals.

Some KU faculty argue that classified research can benefit Kansas companies and the state's economy while exposing students to cutting-edge technology and research.

But others say classified research often is closed to foreign nationals, and therefore isn't helping all students.

Rick Hale, a KU engineering professor who thinks KU's current policies are too restrictive, said it's difficult to gauge the potential financial effect of policy changes.

"There's clearly research that we're not going after now that we could," he said.

But it's hard to say how much additional research funding the university stands to receive if it changes its policies in various ways, he said.

The next forum is set for 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. Monday at the English Room in the Kansas Union.

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