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AAAS Commends White House Announcement on Cuba Relations, Says New Travel Policy Will Benefit Science

A statement released today by AAAS applauds President Obama's plan to establish new diplomatic ties with Cuba, including the announcement of changes that will make it easier for scientists in the two countries to collaborate.

The new policy will expand travel to Cuba, facilitating the scientific exchange of research across educational institutions, which the AAAS statement commended: "In particular, allowing the general license to be applied for research and professional meetings will allow scientific peers to build collaborative activities that will enhance our scientific understanding in fields that go beyond politics and borders. Examples include atmospheric research regarding hurricanes in the Gulf; avian flu and the emergence of new diseases such as the chikungunya virus; and the impact of natural disasters on marine life" the statement said.

"Working together more closely will allow scientists from Cuba and the United States to better share data, identify and monitor outbreaks of infectious disease, and develop more coherent responses," said Alan I. Leshner chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of the journal Science. "These policy changes will go a long way to ensure a more robust science relationship with great mutual benefit." 

As the largest multidisciplinary society that has been engaged for years at the intersection of science and diplomacy, AAAS has a long-held interest in supporting scientific cooperation and diplomacy between the United States and Cuba. In April 2014, AAAS and the Cuban Academy of Sciences signed a landmark memorandum of understanding that outlined a plan to advance scientific cooperation by Cuban and U.S. scientists in key areas of mutual interest.  The memorandum identified four areas where the two nations could seek opportunities for sustained cooperation: emerging infectious diseases, brain disorders, cancer, and antimicrobial drug resistance. 

In an editorial in the 6 June 2014 issue of Science, Leshner along with Gerald Fink, AAAS president and professor at the Whitehead Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Vaughan Turekian, chief international officer at AAAS, argued that this general license should be expanded to allow joint organization of scientific workshops and meetings.

AAAS also participated in science diplomacy visits to Cuba in 2011, 2009, and 1997.