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AAS Statement on the Impact of Federal Agency Travel Restrictions on Scientific Conferences

The American Astronomical Society and its six divisions (Planetary Science, High Energy Astrophysics, Solar Physics, Dynamical Astronomy, Historical Astronomy, and Laboratory Astrophysics) are deeply concerned about the impact of the Administration’s new conference travel restrictions on the scientific productivity and careers of researchers who are Federal employees and contractors.

AAS Call to Action: Let Congress Hear Your Opinion on the Sequester: NDD Coalition Day of Action


The AAS is a member of a coalition of 3,200 national organizations named NDD United. The coalition has worked actively to communicate to Congress that a balanced approach to deficit reduction is necessary and that significant cuts to the non-defense discretionary (NDD) portion of the federal budget called for by the 2011 balanced budget amendment in the form of a sequester would have wide-ranging and negative impacts. The sequester is scheduled to be implemented on March 1st.

What is Public Policy?

Public policy is a catchall phrase that includes actions of and interactions with both Congress and the Executive branch. It also captures activities of the AAS that can have an impact in the wider arena of public life, such as creating and endorsing statements related to science, science policy, or other issues.

Besides funding, what else does the government do to either support or harm Astronomy?

The government has other impacts on astronomy besides the obvious one of providing funds for research and research facilities. Policies on education, such as stipend levels allowed under research grants, or student loan tax credits are both set by the government. Policies regarding land use can have an obvious impact on astronomy. Governmental panels can make decisions about how many federal agencies should fund astronomy. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) manages spectrum use and can have both helpful and harmful impacts on astronomy.

Why do I keep getting these "AAS Action Alerts" in my email?

Occasionally, an action by government that could have a negative (or positive) impact on astronomy must be stopped (or supported). At these times, a rapid, grassroots-level action on the part of the AAS membership can create a truly positive result in Congress or in other areas of government.

When one of these times arrives, the Policy Fellow works with the Executive Officer and the Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy creates an AAS Action Alert. This is then emailed to the appropriate sub-group of the AAS membership.

So how often do I have to write?

For an issue to become important in a Congressional office, approximately five letters must arrive in a given week. This number is a bit larger for Senatorial offices. When an AAS Action Alert is sent out, we have heard from Congressional offices that many hundreds of letters (from AAS members only in several cases) have convinced the member of Congress to take action on the issue.

Local Visits

Local visits with your member of Congress can have a more profound impact then visiting them at Capitol Hill. A local visit with your member of Congress is when you schedule an appointment with him or her during Congressional recess when they are back in their state. Please consider scheduling a meeting with your member of Congress.