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Shutdown Throws Wrench in Scientific Meetings

Go to the video. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has videotaped a talk for an AIDS conference in Spain next week in case the shutdown prevents him from attending.

AIDS Vaccine Barcelona 2013

The U.S. government shutdown that sent 800,000 federal workers home this week, including many researchers, is now having a ripple effect on scientific meetings, blocking federal scientists from attending and directly canceling some meetings.

A White House-sponsored meeting set for today on using big data was canceled; another on the microbiome scheduled for Monday sponsored by AAAS (ScienceInsider’s publisher) is also postponed. As Science Careers has reported, National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation peer-review panel meetings are on hold, which will delay the review of grant proposals.

Other meetings are being affected by the absence of NIH participants. A meeting in Baltimore on HIV in children took place without many NIH researchers, according to the Miami Herald. Lamented Steven Lipshultz, a researcher from the University of Miami in Florida: “We’re looking at data from all over the country. And there is no one from the government there.”

The shutdown took at least one traveling scientist by surprise. An NIH researcher had traveled to Perth in Western Australia—a 30-hour trip from Washington, D.C.—only to learn by e-mail from NIH that he could not present at the meeting. "I had prepared for such a long time to come here and give this talk, all that effort and it goes to waste now," the scientist, Michael Lazarou, told ABC News.

Upcoming meetings could also feel the shutdown’s effects. A major AIDS vaccine conference next week in Barcelona lists about eight speakers from NIH who may not show up, including Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci taped his talk before the shutdown in case he couldn’t attend. “We did not want to leave the organizers in the lurch, without an opening plenary lecture,” Greg Folkers, Fauci’s chief of staff, said by e-mail.

Politico reports that Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, among other agency heads, has canceled upcoming trips that in Moniz’s case include visits to universities.

ScienceInsider is collecting more stories of how the shutdown is affecting government scientists and the broader research community. Share them by commenting below or through Twitter.

You can see our complete shutdown coverage here.