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Supercomputer Center at UC

September 01, 1985

The Times published an editorial (Aug. 1) about the federal government's efforts to restrict access to four NSF-funded supercomputer centers at the University of Illinois, Cornell University, Princeton University and the University of California, San Diego. Your editorial stated that only the San Diego center agreed to control access to its supercomputer.

In fact, the National Science Foundation has acknowledged that the contracts for the four supercomputer centers contain variations in the clause that addresses access by foreign nationals. NSF has assured us in writing that it considers the four contracts to be substantively identical on this point and that all the centers will be treated equally. All will be required to comply with a national policy that is being developed to control access to U.S. supercomputers by non-resident aliens from Soviet bloc countries. In the meantime, NSF's principal criterion for access to the supercomputers will be scientific merit.

The NSF's contracts for the Princeton and San Diego supercomputers stipulate that both will be required to abide by the policy finally adopted by President Reagan. During the development of that policy, the San Diego contract requires advance approval from NSF before a non-resident alien from a Soviet bloc country is allowed to use the supercomputer. Although the contracts with Cornell and Illinois do not contain such clauses, both universities were notified by NSF that they will be required to abide by the impending national policy.

A federal interagency working group has begun to draft the national policy. Each of the supercomputer centers has been consulted about the policy. We have been assured that we will be given an ample opportunity to review and comment on the draft policy. We have also been told that the policy will seek to incorporate our concerns about limitations on access to the supercomputers.

As a member of the Corson panel of the National Academy of Sciences, I sought to protect national security while at the same time protecting the freedom of scientific inquiry and open publication of scientific results. This openness has brought many benefits to this country. As a result, the Corson panel recommended that restrictions on the exchange of scientific information apply only to classified research that has the most immediate implications for national security and that most universities do not conduct. The same principle should hold true for the supercomputer centers.

RICHARD C. ATKINSON

Chancellor

University of California

San Diego

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