Tensions with Russia over the unrest in Ukraine are inflicting collateral damage on science. ScienceInsider has learned that several U.S. scientists have pulled out of upcoming conferences in Russia.
Some cancellations stem from policy guidance that the U.S. government issued to agencies this spring to clamp down on travel by government scientists to Russia. Based on that guidance, NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE) announced in April that they would block most government travel to Russia; other agencies are reviewing and in some cases not allowing such travel. “There has been some diplomatic pushing and shoving behind the scenes,” says Dale Meade, a physicist emeritus with the U.S. DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in New Jersey.
Some DOE scientists who had planned to attend the International Atomic Energy Agency’s conference on fusion in St. Petersburg in October have requested permission to travel there but have not received any guidance. The approval process for travel to Russia is shrouded in secrecy, says Rita Guenther, a program officer at the National Academies in Washington, D.C., who is tracking the issue. “There is no one policy that all agencies share. Each meeting is looked at independently, and each instance of scientific cooperation is looked at independently.”