In this context, we are expressing our concern about travel restrictions that limit the ability of scientists around the world to fully participate in international meetings. Some such restrictions are common, including slow and overly restrictive visa procedures that severely limit the free movement of certain nationals. Of particular concern is the U.S. travel ban, which affects seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Such bans negatively impact science in many ways that are inconsistent with the mission and values of the Human Cell Atlas initiative. They impede the free flow of information and severely restrict opportunities for talented researchers to engage in our endeavor. They eliminate key perspectives and voices that drive and enrich scientific discovery. They oppose our core principles of diversity, inclusion, and equity. And, for an effort like the Human Cell Atlas, which aims to represent and benefit all of humanity, they exclude significant segments of the human population.
To mitigate the negative effects of such bans, we will implement several measures starting at our upcoming November meeting and at all future meetings, including:
● Remote registration and participation in the meeting
● Remote hosting of the meeting at international institutions
● Video conferencing to enable remote participants to contribute to breakout sessions
● Inviting speakers to give talks remotely if they are not permitted to attend in person
● Enabling remote poster presentations
We believe that these efforts can have a positive impact beyond just the affected countries, by bringing in the many people who are not able to attend our meetings due to their limited size. We also plan to coordinate with other relevant and like-minded societies to share our experiences and gain from those of others.
We note, however, that these actions do not substitute for collaborations and discussions that are only possible face-to-face, and thus are inherently inadequate. We therefore advocate for the removal of these travel restrictions in order to fully enable international scientific collaboration and participation.