CISAC’s dialogues are based on two fundamental rationales that define the committee’s approach to its work. First, nongovernmental channels of communication play a critical role in building and sustaining cooperative approaches to international security. Second, scientists can make a unique contribution to such nongovernmental activities, particularly those that engage countries where official relations are or have been adversarial, because of the special relevance as well as nonideological character of the scientific and technological facts underlying many international security questions and also because of the mutual respect scientists tend to hold for one another based on intellectual accomplishment independent of political allegiance.
CISAC’s original purpose was to keep communication open and ideas flowing between Soviet and American scientists during a time of extraordinary tension in official relations. More than thirty bilateral meetings, alternating between the United States and the former Soviet Union, have taken place since 1981. CISAC's counterpart group is the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). CISAC concluded two successful joint activities in 2008. They produced a joint consensus study entitled, Internationalization of the Civilian Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Goals, Strategies, and Challenges. The study details a scheme to curb proliferation of nuclear materials and knowledge by ensuring all states, both clients and providers, access to the nuclear fuel cycle. The NAS and RAS are leading the next phase of the discussion that will focus on the back end of the fuel cycle. In 2008 joint NAS-RAS project committees published the proceedings from the Future of the Nuclear Security Environment in 2015, a workshop conducted in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The papers outlined several opportunities for rejuvenated science and technology cooperation between the United States and Russia.
CISAC's dialogue in China was the first and remains one of the few sustained bilateral channels of nongovernmental communication on international and regional security issues with an important set of Chinese scientists and policy analysts. The chair of the counterpart group - the Chinese Scientists Group for Arms Control (CSGAC) - is Hu Side, former president of the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics and a longtime advocate of U.S.-Chinese nongovernmental contacts. Full bilateral meetings normally alternate between the United States and China and the groups hold smaller periodic seminars in China to permit discussion of issues in greater depth and detail. In 2008, CISAC and CSGAC marked their 20th year of cooperation with the completion of the English-Chinese Chinese-English Nuclear Security Glossary. CISAC continues to engage with the Chinese Biological Scientists Group (CBSG), formed under the Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament to discuss issues concerning biological safety and security.
The dialogue with CISAC's counterpart group is organized by the National Institute for Advanced Studies (NIAS) in Bangalore and began with the visit of an Academy delegation to India in January 1998 that also initiated other new cooperative programs. In 2004 CISAC held the fifth full meeting of its dialogue with Indian counterparts in Goa, as well as a workshop on U.S.-Indian cooperation in counterterrorism. The report of that workshop was published as Science and Technology to Counter Terrorism: Proceedings of an Indo-U.S. Workshop. In 2008, CISAC established a link to the Indian government’s National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), met with India’s Deputy National Security Advisors, and continues to work with NIAS to develop joint projects.