Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Bill to stop misuse of dangerous technology could hit uni research

By Justin Norrie

The Defence Trade Controls Bill 2011, which restricts the use of materials that could be used in weapons, will inhibit a wide range of scientific research.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

A bill designed to stop the transfer of sensitive materials and information would also impede crucial academic research, staff from the University of Sydney have told a senate hearing.

The University of Sydney and Universities Australia say the Defence Trade Controls Bill 2011, which proscribes thousands of materials on the Defence and Strategic Goods List – such as lasers and toxins that could be used in weapons – will have the unintended consequence of inhibiting important research in a wide range of disciplines.

The list has previously controlled only the export of proscribed materials. But the bill seeks to go further by controlling “intangible transfers”, such as measurements of those materials, and other uses common in research.

Michael Biercuk, an experimental physicist and the Primary Investigator in the Quantum Control Laboratory at the University of Sydney, said that “if you use equipment that you can buy commercially from a vendor and you measure some property of it, you write a piece of custom software so you can interface with it – all of those activities are controlled. Even the knowledge of how to measure a property of it is controlled.

“What...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Justin Norrie is an editor at The Conversation, where this article first appeared.