Some federal scientists who thought the Bush Administration policy limiting travel to scientific meetings would be changed got a shock this week. Staff at the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Maryland, were informed that a cap on travel to big meetings imposed under the Bush Administration by the Department of Health and Human Services, will stay in place.
In a 21 April email to staff, NIH official Kenneth Stith explains that HHS is limiting attendance at several meetings this year to 2008 levels to save money. NIH "requested [HHS] to reconsider reductions ... emphasizing the impact to science and training. However, due to the overall push to reduce costs, the decision was made to continue," the memo says. A spreadsheet obtained by ScienceInsider describes the "reductions" for 13 upcoming meetings—including the June meeting of the Endocrine Society, which is in Washington, D.C., a local trip for NIHers. Only 93 of the 178 staff who wanted to attend can go.
Recession or not, the fact that HHS is still dictating travel spending is irksome to many NIH scientists. "We should be allowed to spend our money the way we think is best," says Samuel Cushman, a 30-year NIH veteran.