Earlier this summer, when it was revealed that officials from the General Services Administration, the agency that oversees the business of the federal government with a $26.3 billion annual budget, spent more than a quarter-million on a lavish, one-day awards ceremony, the Obama administration tightened budgets and placed restrictions on the amount of money that can be spent on similar events.
This, however, has caused constraints in the science and technology community, as restrictions were also imposed on conference and travel expenses for representatives from government agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy, NASA, and the Defense Department, including government labs. This impedes scientific discussion and collaboration that routinely occurs at scientific and technical meetings between government agencies and researchers from private organizations and institutes.
On September 10, SIAM along with the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the Computing Research Association (CRA), and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Inc. – USA (IEEE-USA) sent a joint letter expressing concern over new restrictions on conferences and travel expenses in three pieces of legislation that are currently under consideration by Congress (GSA Act, DATA Act, and the 21st Century Postal Reform Act). The letter was sent to House and Senate leadership, Sponsors of the bills (Reps. Joe Walsh and Darrell Issa, Senator Lieberman), Chair and Ranking Member of the committees of jurisdiction (House Oversight Committee, Reps. Issa and Cummings; Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Senators Lieberman and Collins), White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren, and White House Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients. The letter requests exemptions for any new restrictions for recognized scientific, technical, and educational meetings from the proposed limits.
The New York Times reported on the joint letter and the concerns expressed by the scientific community this week.
A copy of SIAM’s joint letter to Dr. Holdren can be found here.