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Second Kepler Science Conference Statement from the Science Organizing Committee

Status Report From: SpaceRef Interactive, Inc.
Posted: Tuesday, October 8, 2013

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Second Kepler Science Conference Registrants,

In late March, 2013, NASA, in response to Federal legislation, imposed a moratorium on visits to NASA facilities by citizens of several nations, including China.  The legislation in question was initially crafted by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) to reflect national security concerns, with further modifications and restrictions added to the 2013 bill.

The Scientific Organizing Committee (SOC) of the Second Kepler Science Conference (KSC2) learned about this moratorium in late September, as the final agenda was being constructed, when 6 of our Chinese colleagues who preregistered for the KSC2 had their registrations denied

As members of the SOC, we find the consequences of this law deplorable and strongly object to banning our Chinese colleagues, or colleagues from any nation, from participation in KSC2 at NASA/Ames.  Had we been aware of this possibility at the onset of planning KSC2, alternate venues to NASA/Ames would have been pursued.

With less than 4 weeks before the start of KSC2, options to address this issue are limited.  With no registration fee, and complete lack of ability to communicate with colleagues at NASA/Ames, seeking options for an off-site venue in the Bay Area is challenging.  Despite that, we are pursuing other options that will allow participation by all interested scientists either in person or remotely. We are also considering ways that attendees can express their concerns about the impact of this legislation.

The policies that led to this exclusion have had a negative impact on open scientific inquiry.  We feel very strongly that it is wrong to exclude scientists, on the basis of nationality, from a meeting that welcomes free and open exchange of scientific ideas. We support our colleagues who express their objections to this nation-based exclusion through whatever actions they choose. However, we also feel that canceling this meeting, or otherwise compromising its success, would even further limit open scientific exchange.

Instead, a strong argument for relaxing these unnecessary restrictions would be a public demonstration that open scientific inquiry and discussion is far removed from political concerns and devoid of threats to national security.  To that end, we look forward to a large, exciting, and successful KSC2 with as broad participation as possible, and we hope that the astronomical community will take advantage of this opportunity to share their results with one another and the public.

Signed,

Alan P. Boss, CoChair, KSC2 SOC,  Carnegie Institution for Science

Steven D. Kawaler, CoChair, KSC2 SOC,   Iowa State University

Dawn Gelino, KSC2 SOC,, LOC CoChair   NExScI - Caltech

Suzanne Aigrain, SOC,   University of Oxford, UK

William Chaplin, SOC,   University of Birmingham, UK

Jonathan Fortney, SOC,   University of California, Santa Cruz

Matthew Holman, SOC,   Harvard University

Nuno C. Santos, SOC,   CAUP - Portugal

William Welsh, SOC,   San Diego State University

(Note that because of the current US Government shutdown, NASA employees are unable to read or answer email or phones, and could not be contacted as we work through this.  Omission of the names of SOC,/LOC members who are NASA employees from this list does not indicate their support for, or objection to, this statement).

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