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Federal Budget Limits Affect Scientific Conferences

New York Times (10/23/12) Laura Dattaro

The Obama administration recently imposed new guidelines that limit the amount of money federal agencies can spend on regional conferences.  However, several science and technology organizations say the federal budget limits are negatively affecting the scientific community’s ability to share research and collaborate.  “This is a problem not just for the computing research community, but for almost anyone who’s involved in scientific work,” says ACM president Vinton G. Cerf.  Many organizations have written to Congress and federal officials asking for an exemption from the spending policy for recognized scientific, technical, and educational meetings, as well as meetings of national and international standards bodies.  “The inability of the government researchers and program managers to participate in these conferences is actually very damaging,” Cerf says.  The new policy also has created confusion among federal agencies, because individuals do not know how many other agency employees also are attending, and do not know if the agency is close to its federally enforced $100,000 spending limit.  Cerf notes that in an era of high unemployment and shifting markets, scientific collaboration is crucial, and limiting those opportunities is not good for the United States.

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