The US space agency NASA says it will reconsider applications of Chinese researchers who were banned from attending an upcoming planetary conference. After the exclusion of Chinese researchers sparked criticism among scientists and a boycott by several prominent American researchers.
The US space agency, NASA is facing some backlash from prominent U-S astronomers after they were told that their Chinese counterparts will be barred from attending an upcoming NASA conference in California. NASA says it was forced to deny pre-registrations of six Chinese scientists due to national security concerns. That decision has sparked some to boycott the conference.
In an email to organizers, Geoff Marcy, an astronomy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote:
GFX: "In good conscience, I cannot attend a meeting that discriminates in this way. The meeting is about planets located trillions of miles away, with no national security implications."
The restriction is based on a 2011 law that prevents NASA funds from being used to collaborate with China or to host Chinese visitors at U-S space agency facilities; although it places no restrictions on activities involving Chinese nationals at U-S research centers and universities.
Scientists say NASA’s decision hurts science research on an international scale. Public relations professor Lan Ni at the University of Houston says the ban on Chinese researchers hurts the space agency’s reputation and is a bad public relations move.
"I personally believe it’s bad PR for NASA because it hurts not only the relationships but also its own reputation. I think that the message they are sending says a lot about their position on global talents that contradicts their own mission to advance scientific discovery on a global scale,” said Dr. Lan Ni, professor at Houston University.
Organizers of the upcoming conference have issued a statement to attendees saying quote:
GFX: "We find the consequences of this law deplorable and strongly object to banning our Chinese colleagues, or colleagues from any nation. We are pursuing other options that will allow participation by all interested scientists either in person or remotely." (Alan Boss, Second Kepler Science Conference Co-Chair)
Experts say besides hurting the space agency’s image, NASA’s move to bar Chinese scientists could limit contributions to space research from many potential collaborators.