Dutch Science Academy Challenges New Anti-Espionage Law

Dutch Science Academy Challenges New Anti-Espionage Law

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) opposes the new anti-espionage law, fearing it may hinder international cooperation and impact Dutch competitiveness.

The Hague – The proposed Knowledge Screening Act, an initiative to prevent espionage within Dutch universities and research groups, has met stern opposition from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).

Contentious New Legislation

Set to be published next month by Outgoing Education and Science Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf and expected to come into force in 2025, the law would empower universities and other knowledge institutes to screen or even decline foreign scientists looking to conduct research in “risky fields” within the country.

KNAW’s Concerns

In a letter to Minister Dijkgraaf, the KNAW expressed its grave reservations about the proposed law. 

Discrimination and Bureaucracy could be two significant offshoots of such legislation. 

The academy has warned of potential discrimination based on nationality, a hindrance to international collaborations, and the inherent complications of having organizations without specialized expertise evaluate the risks a certain field might pose to national security.

Furthermore, the KNAW emphasized the potential Threat to Dutch Competitiveness

They penned, “Should the Netherlands choose to be the sole EU member state to screen incoming scientists, there is a looming danger that researchers, even those harmless, might opt for countries with more lenient knowledge security policies.” 

The academy points out the detrimental effects this could have not just on national security but also on the overall competitiveness of the Netherlands and the broader progress of international science.

Balancing Security and Collaboration

While recognizing the inherent risks in global scientific cooperation, especially in today’s tumultuous geopolitical landscape, the KNAW believes the existing regulations are sufficient to ward off malicious entities. 

Existing provisions enable knowledge institutions to consult the government safety desk about potential threats when recruiting researchers from specific nations.

In response to the concerns raised, Minister Dijkgraaf conveyed to the Volkskrant that mere Risk Awareness is Insufficient and that screening is necessary. 

He expressed his desire to collaborate with other EU nations in framing this law to ensure a balanced playing field. 

Acknowledging the invaluable feedback from the KNAW, Dijkgraaf stated, “We are in the process of drafting the law. The KNAW’s points are crucial. We need to undertake this journey collectively.”

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