Scientists Must Travel Freely, Share Science
Society for Neuroscience (SfN) President Diane Lipscombe, PhD, President-Elect Barry Everitt, PhD, and Past President Richard Huganir, PhD, released the following statement, reflecting on those who were unable to attend Neuroscience 2018 because of restrictive travel policies in the United States and other countries and continuing to affirm the Society’s support for free exchange of information, diversity, and global collaboration in science. SfN is the world’s largest organization dedicated to advancing the understanding of the brain and the nervous system.
WASHINGTON, DC — “With the successful completion of Neuroscience 2018 in San Diego last month, we are reflecting on the continued challenges posed by restrictive travel policies around the world, including the U.S. travel ban that prevented scientists from certain countries from attending the event. As countries including the U.S. and U.K. impose additional visa restrictions, it has become more challenging to bring together scientists from around the world to share their research. While these policies hinder global and cultural exchange and collaboration across all disciplines, we are particularly concerned about the chilling effect that this will have on scientific innovations and collaborations that are essential to improve the quality of human life by paving the way to understand, treat and cure devastating neurological and psychiatric disorders. We believe strongly that scientists must be able to present and discuss their research at international meetings based on their science and not their country-of-origin. We share the disappointment of our members and colleagues around the world that the travel ban imposed by the U.S. government prevented some neuroscientists from attending this year’s SfN annual conference. This travel ban also disproportionately affects our early career scientists who are the next generation of innovators and economic drivers of the future.
While SfN on its own is not able to reverse misguided visa policies of national governments, SfN’s leaders are discussing other constructive steps the Society can take to encourage opportunities for scientists to communicate and collaborate, no matter where in the world those colleagues call home. As part of this effort, the Society is exploring practical ways that scientists can participate in international meetings when they are prevented by visa issues from traveling to the U.S. In accordance with its long-standing policy, SfN will continue to refund all annual meeting registration fees for any scientists who have paid them and are subsequently unable to attend the annual meeting because they were denied a visa.
Science knows no borders, and we firmly believe that advancing knowledge and developing new technologies requires that the free flow of scientific ideas must be allowed to progress without interruption. In accordance with SfN’s mission to advance understanding of the brain and nervous system by bringing together scientists from diverse backgrounds, SfN will continue to advocate for freedom of travel in the U.S. and around the world. We are working with our partners including the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS), the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO), and the Canadian Association for Neuroscience (CAN) to communicate that the mobility of scientists is essential to scientific progress.
As we plan for Neuroscience 2019 in Chicago next October, we will communicate with policymakers in the U.S. government to advocate for change in these misguided travel restrictions, so that all scientists will have the opportunity to attend conferences such as SfN’s annual meeting to share their latest findings.”
The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is an organization of nearly 38,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and the nervous system.