Computer Networking: a Priority Area for NATO's Outreach Scientific Programme

Dr. J.P. Nadreau, ing.
Scientific Affairs Division

Historical Background

In addition to its well-known political and military dimensions, NATO has a "Third Dimension" which seeks to encourage interaction between peoples, to consider some of the challenges facing our modern society and to foster the development of Science and Technology. The programmes of the NATO Science Committee are major components of this Third Dimension. Since its formation in 1958, the NATO Science Committee, by promoting scientific research and scientific education through its Science Programme, has worked up to now to strengthen the scientific resources of the Alliance members essentially.

In the context of the overall strategic and political transformations of these past years the role of NATO and that of NATO's Science Programme have changed. While the strengthening of transatlantic links and the enhancement of solidarity within the Alliance remain strong themes of the Science Programme, emphasis is now placed on working with our Cooperation Partners - the 22 countries that belonged to the former Warsaw Pact and that are now part of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC). The programmes of the Science Committee were made an integral part of the NACC process and were consequently reoriented in order to enhance its relevance to NATO's new missions and objectives. The Science Committee, in consultation with leading science policy makers from Cooperation Partner countries, identified a series of scientific issues on which to concentrate its efforts. A number of Priority Areas have therefore been selected in which scientists from NATO countries and from Cooperation Partner (CP) countries are invited to collaborate.

Priority Areas

The first priority area covers the scientific problems related to disarmament technologies, and non proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. One has to recognize that the agreements that require the reduction of strategic nuclear warheads pose major scientific, technical and environmental challenges. For example, the question of what to do with plutonium is particularly complex. NATO has been contributing to the reflection on this important question by sponsoring Advanced Research Workshops (ARWs) devoted to themes such as: "Managing the Plutonium Surplus: Applications and Options" and "The Possible Utilization of MOx, the Fabrication and Performance of MOx Fuel".

The second area covers scientific problems related to the environment and, most specifically, defense-related environment. A crucial problem is the cleaning of the environmental legacy of the cold war. In this context, NATO organized recently a Workshop where, for the first time, nuclear test experts from the USA, Western Europe, Russia and China, who had never before been allowed to communicate directly with each other, were able to compare their research findings. Other workshops and research projects focused on "The Identification and the Selection of Technologies for Site Reclamation at Former Military Installations", on "The Sustainable Development of the Lake Baikal Region" or on the "Risk Assessment and Mapping of Marine Military Waste Disposal".

The third priority area covers scientific problems related to high technology. It includes biotechnology, energy conservation, materials science, and information and computer science. The topics covered in this area and the types of activities are obviously very varied. The types of activities can be: an Advanced Study Institute (ASI) on the "Fabrication, Properties and Applications of Low-Dimensional Semiconductor Structures", an Advanced Research Workshop (ARW) on "Wide Band-Gap Electronic Materials" or a Linkage Grant on "High Energy Organic Molecules - Synthetic Fuels and Energy Storage" which involves teams from the USA and Ukraine.

The fourth area concerns problems related to human resources and more specifically to science policy and management as well as intellectual property rights. The question of Intellectual Property plays a crucial rule in the development of the legal and regulatory framework necessary to nurture technology transfer in a market economy. NATO has sponsored workshops: "The Use and Regulation of Intellectual Property" and "Science and Innovation as Strategic Tools for Industrial and Economic Growth." The interest in Technology Transfer has led to another ARW on the issue which gathered scientific community leaders from North America, Europe and Central Asia to discuss ways of facilitating the transfer of technology in the post-cold war era. They paid attention to the political, economic and legal dimensions of this problem as well as to its educational and technical aspects.

Finally, the fifth and last area relates directly to this workshop. Computer Networking, as a priority area, has a slightly different scope than the other priority areas. Here, the emphasis is put on the enhancement of the communication infrastructure available to the scientists and not on the fundamental and applied research being done in the field. Computer Networking must be viewed as a means to bring scientists together as were the Advanced Research Workshops and the Advanced Study Institutes at the beginning of the NATO scientific programme. It obviously cannot and will not replace them, rather it gives a new dimension to communication and, as such, it is a very natural area of activity for the NATO Science Programme. The Science Committee when meeting recently with its Cooperation Partners approved the recommendation to establish an Advisory Panel for Computer Networking. This Panel has the prime task to guide, by its advice, the programme in Computer Networking, to initiate and promote activities and to make recommendations on the funding and the specific actions which should be undertaken. The Chairman of this Panel Dr. Vint Cerf is also the President of the Internet Society and a well-known pioneer in Networking.

In all these priority areas, the funding mechanisms which have been used by NATO scientists over the years are still available, they are described briefly below.

Support Mechanisms in Priority Areas

Grants are available in these priority areas to organize courses and workshops, and to fund international collaboration between researchers, through the following activities:

Advanced Study Institutes (ASIs):

These tutorial courses are to impart advanced knowledge not yet in university curricula. Opportunities are offered to leading scientists to organize advanced meetings of tutorial character, typically of a duration of ten working days, involving 12 to 15 lecturers "teaching" and audience of some 70 post-doctoral "students".

Advanced Research Workshops (ARWs):

The objective of these workshops is to contribute to the critical assessment of existing knowledge on new important topics, to identify directions for future research, and to promote close working relations between scientists from various countries and with different professional experience. They are typically working meetings of 20-50 participants lasting from two to five days.

Collaborative Research Grants (CRGs):

These grants are awarded to allow short reciprocal visits abroad for scientists conducting common research. They stimulate collaboration between research scientists from NATO and CP countries.

Linkage Grants (LGs):

These grants differ from the CRGs as they involve research teams and not only individual scientists. They, as in the case of CRGs, provide teams with funds for short reciprocal visits abroad.

Expert Visits (EVs):

These are specialist visits of invited CP experts to NATO countries and vice versa. They provide experts with travel and living expenses for short duration on-site consultation.

Characteristics of the Computer Networking Priority Area

The NATO Computer Networking initiative is intended to provide support for the enhancement of the communication infrastructure available to the scientists rather than to support fundamental and applied research in the field. The initiative encompasses a two-pronged strategy for improving computer communication between scientists in NATO countries and Cooperation Partners in the priority areas approved by the Science Committee:


Following the stated strategy, activities eligible for support must be related to computer networking policy setting, network managers training, as well as infrastructure enhancement.

The research topics of the projects for which equipment is purchased should be primarily, but not exclusively, in the priority areas designated by the Science Committee.

Type of Support, Mechanisms

Advanced Networking Workshops

With respect to networking policy, NATO can support workshops aimed at increasing the level of homogeneity among the various network policies at national and international levels. These workshops provide a strong base from which can be laid down a better coordinated collaboration between Cooperation Partners and NATO countries. They provide unique fora for users and policy makers in which those responsible for the scientific infrastructure acquire a better understanding of the need for coordination in the planning and development of research networks. Among expected concrete outcomes of such workshops are sets of recommendations for follow-up activities and policies.

Workshops can also be the forum for advanced level, extensive discussion among qualified network managers from various countries. They may equally be the unique opportunity for the transfer of knowledge and the exchange of experiences between managers coming from different environments and backgrounds.

Computer Networking Supplement to Linkage Grants

NATO supports, through Linkage Grants, reciprocal visits of research teams conducting common research. In order to improve the communication between the teams, Linkage Grant holders are invited to consider whether the upgrading of the CP participants' networking equipment could facilitate the quality and the quantity of the exchanges. A Supplement for Computer Networking is available for purchasing small equipment that can enhance the communication level between the collaborating teams. Typical grants cover the cost of modems, software, leased line service fees and subscriptions.

Networking Infrastructure Grant

The purpose of a Networking Infrastructure Grant is to provide teams conducting research primarily, but not exclusively, in the priority areas with the most appropriate communication technologies. It aims at fostering strong, lasting scientific links between teams already involved in joint research projects funded by other sources. The common collaborative project must involve one or more institutes in CP countries and one or more institutes in NATO countries. The scientific merit of the project, the excellence of the applicants and the relevance of the joint project to the field are the prime criteria being assessed. The participant teams must mutually contribute to and benefit from the collaboration.

The Network Infrastructure Grant is expected to promote local and international collaboration through the setting up of links and networking capabilities. A key aspect of economic international connectivity is the promotion of collaborative local infrastructures. A Networking Infrastructure Grant primarily provides assistance to the CP country labs for purchasing equipment that will improve the level and the quality of the telecommunication facilities among the partners involved in a common project. The grant is intended to fund infrastructure only and not the research project itself.

Applications are reviewed by the Advisory Panel on Computer Networking and by experts in the priority area concerned, if necessary.

Other Mechanisms

Other mechanisms such as Linkage Grants and Expert Visits are additional tools available to the Panel. Both may be used as the initial phase to more complex and larger collaborating projects.


NATO's new role has led the Science Committee to expand its activities to its new Cooperation Partners. The Outreach Programme designed and implemented in collaboration with CP countries is focusing in specific areas of mutual interest.

By designating Computer Networking as one of the Priority Areas, the Science Committee has agreed to concentrate the activities in both the infrastructure and the international policy aspect of networking. The challenge is great but it is believed that NATO, in collaboration with all players in this field, can contribute to a better communication between scientists, be they from NATO or from Cooperation Partner countries.

NATO countries: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States.

Cooperation Partner (CP) countries: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan.

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