Federal employees could be barred from attending non-governmental meetings and conferences if a policy endorsed by Congress is enacted. Moreover, the legislative provision would limit federal agencies to participating in one privately sponsored conference per year.

These provisions are part of the congressional response to the reports of an extravagant conference organized by the General Services Administration in Las Vegas, Nevada. These reforms, however, could have the consequence of preventing federal researchers from interacting with the broader scientific community at annual meetings hosted by professional societies.

A group of about 50 scientific organizations, including the American Institute of Biological Sciences, have written to Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to urge them to address this issue. The letter urges greater flexibility for government employees to attend scientific and technical conferences organized or supported by professional societies and non-governmental organizations.

The legislative proposal is part of the House-passed DATA Act and the postal reform bill passed by the Senate. Neither of these bills has been taken up yet by the other chamber.


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