Help Support Science! Government Participation in Scientific Meetings Is Under Threat

19 November 2012
AGU Science Policy Alert 12-47

A piece of legislation currently being reviewed in Congress aims to severely limit federal employees from participating in conferences, including non-governmental scientific meetings like the AGU Fall Meeting.  The21st Century Postal Services Act (S. 1789) passed the Senate in April 2012 and is likely to move quickly in the House during the lame duck session because of serious financial issues addressed in other portions of the bill.  While the majority of the bill strives to improve and transform the U.S. Postal Service, section 501 (S. AMDT 2060) of the bill will severely affect the sharing of scientific research and genesis of potentially transformative ideas.

A very important means by which progress is made in scientific research is in the exchange of ideas that takes place at scientific meetings and conferences.  At these events, scientists from academia, industry, and government, as well as students studying to become scientists, come together to formally present and discuss their research and learn about research by others that may have implications for their work.  This exchange of ideas and review of results is integral to scientific integrity and the scientific process.

Despite the gains AGU members and AGU Public Affairs have made over the last 6 months in educating Members of Congress on the harm section 501 would have on the scientific process and Earth and space science community, the rushed nature of postal reform could allow the provision to pass in the final days of this Congress.  Please help the scientific community today by taking the following actions:

  1. Contact Your Legislator.
    • Follow this link to contact your Representative and Senators via email. Speaking points are provided to help you craft a short succinct email. You can also use www.house.gov and www.senate.gov to get phone numbers and email forms.
    • Ask them to allow Federal employees to continue to participate in non-governmental scientific conferences by amending the language in S. AMDT 2060 in the “Postal Act.” Tell them that Section 501 (S. AMDT 2060) of the 21st Century Postal Services Act (S.1789) would severely restrict the participation of Federal government scientists in scientific meetings and conferences.
  2. Share Examples with AGU.
    • In an effort to convey to lawmakers the importance of government scientists’ participation in scientific meetings, AGU is asking for its members to share examples of societally-relevant scientific work resulting from collaboration between government and academic and/or industry scientists at AGU meetings.
    • Please send your stories to the AGU Public Affairs Team at sciencepolicy@agu.org.  You may also include these examples when contacting your legislators.

***Please note that Federal employees should contact their governmental relations office before taking action and are encouraged to share this information with their colleagues outside government.

Please contact AGU Public Affairs staff if you have any questions regarding this issue. For assistance on how to find and contact your Congressional Representative, please visit the AGU Science Policy webpage.