Technology Transfer:

U.S. and Foreign Participation in R&D at Federal Laboratories

RCED-88-203BR: Published: Aug 15, 1988. Publicly Released: Sep 6, 1988.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed: (1) the extent of U.S. and foreign researchers' participation in federal research and development laboratories; (2) federal laboratories' policies regarding foreign access to research and development; (3) reciprocity between federal laboratory researchers and foreign researchers; and (4) the implications of these issues for U.S. policy on foreign access to federal research and development.

GAO obtained responses to its questionnaire from laboratories and found that: (1) 13,092 U.S. and 5,677 foreign researchers conducted research at their facilities during fiscal year 1986, with 4,657 U.S. and 3,597 foreign researchers working through guest researcher programs intended to attract senior scientists and engineers from governments, businesses, and universities; (2) the Department of Energy's energy research laboratories and the National Institutes of Health had the highest numbers of outside U.S. and foreign researchers; (3) Japan, the United Kingdom, and China contributed the highest percentages of foreign researchers, totalling 13 percent, 8 percent, and 8 percent of the entire research population, respectively; (4) all of the laboratories required researchers to disclose any inventions they made at their laboratories; and (5) the United States benefited more than foreign researchers from research collaboration. GAO found that the laboratories: (1) distinguished between scientific research and research with commercial potential in restricting foreign access; (2) did not perceive a need for additional guidance or authority to require reciprocity or restrict foreign access; and (3) did not favor formal restrictions on foreign access to federal laboratories, instead preferring to stimulate U.S. participation.

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