May 18, 2012
The Honorable Harry Reid Senate Majority Leader United States Senate| 522 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-2803
The Honorable Mitch McConnell Senate Minority Leader United States Senate 317 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-1702
Dear Senators Reid and McConnell,
As representatives of U.S. science, engineering, and higher education organizations, we write to you to express our deep concern regarding amendments that were passed in the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act, H.R. 2146) in the House and the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S. 1789) in the Senate, which would place severe restrictions on government employees’ abilities to attend meetings and conferences. We represent hundreds of thousands of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians—many of whom work for the federal government—across a broad spectrum of disciplines.
Our organizations are predominantly non-profit, 501(c)(3) professional societies with a mandate to advance the progress of scientific and technological research and education. Our organizations realize that goal through the publication of peer-review journals, and by convening large scientific conferences, workshops, lectures, and seminars. The free exchange of scientific ideas and information is crucial to advancing science and innovation, and conferences are a standard mechanism for the transfer of information among scientists and engineers.
We recognize that Congress has a responsibility to prevent wasteful government spending. We are concerned, however, that the language in the amendments would inadvertently impede the free flow of scientific information and the professional development of scientists and engineers. This would potentially work against critical national goals related to national security, public health, science education, innovation, and competitiveness.
Recently, Washington D.C. hosted the 2012 USA Science and Engineering Festival, which engaged 150,000 attendees. Many non-profit scientific and engineering societies participated in the Festival, and almost 40 federal government agencies and offices provided hands-on science exhibits and/or public access to government scientists. It is unclear whether government scientists’ participation in this education-oriented activity would then preclude their engagement in any other scientific conference in the same year, under the current amendment language.
The undersigned organizations urge you to protect the integrity of the scientific enterprise and encourage you to allow greater flexibility for government employees to attend scientific and technical conferences organized or supported by professional societies and non-governmental organizations.
American Association for the Advancement of Science American Association of Anatomists American Association for Dental Research American Association of Immunologists American Astronomical Society American Economic Association American Educational Research Association American Geophysical Union American Institute of Biological Sciences American Mathematical Society American Physiological Society American Society of Agronomy American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology American Society for Engineering Education American Society for Investigative Pathology American Society of Mammalogists American Society of Mechanical Engineers American Society for Microbiology American Society of Plant Biologists American Sociological Association American Statistical Association Association of American Geographers Association of American Medical Colleges Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities Association for Molecular Pathology Association of Population Centers Association for Women in Mathematics Association for Women in Science Biophysical Society Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation Consortium of Social Science Associations Council of Energy Research and Education Leaders Council of Environmental Deans and Directors Crop Science Society of America Ecological Society of America Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Genetics Society of America Geological Society of America Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers- USA Mathematical Association of America National Council for Science and the Environment National Postdoctoral Association Population Association of America Research!America The American Federation for Medical Research The Biomedical Engineering Society The Endocrine Society The Optical Society The Ornithological Council Society for Neuroscience Society for the Study of Reproduction Soil Science Society of America SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics