Scientists Boycott NASA Conference over Banning of Chinese Colleagues

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Some of the United States’ top space scientists have decided to boycott a conference organized by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) because the agency is refusing to allow Chinese scientists to attend the important event.

 

NASA officials said scientists from China, including those working at U.S. institutions, could not attend the upcoming meeting at the agency’s Ames Research Center in California because a new law prohibits anyone from China entering a NASA building.

 

The law, authored by U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (R-Virginia), chair of the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA, restricts foreign nationals from NASA facilities in an effort to counter espionage.

 

But many American scientists object to the ban, saying it is discriminatory to bar Chinese students and researchers from participating at NASA events.

 

The conference at the center of the controversy will focus on NASA’s Kepler space telescope program, which searches the universe for other planetary systems.

 

In response to the ban, a growing number of U.S. experts have said they will boycott the meeting. These include Geoff Marcy, an astronomy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes on studying exoplanets (planets outside the solar system).

 

Calling the ban “completely shameful and unethical,” Marcy wrote in an email sent to the conference organizers: “In good conscience, I cannot attend a meeting that discriminates in this way. The meeting is about planets located trillions of miles away, with no national security implications.”

 

The Guardian reported that the new law allows the space agency to apply for a waiver against the ban in special circumstances. But apparently a moratorium introduced by NASA’s administrator, Charles Bolden, would have prevented any waiver from going through.

-Noel Brinkerhoff

 

To Learn More:

US Scientists Boycott NASA Conference over China Ban (by Ian Sample, The Guardian)

Chinese? You're Not Welcome (The Economist)

United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission (AllGov)

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