In a startling display of good sense, the ban on Chinese scientists attending a conference on the Kepler space telescope program at a NASA site has been reversed, after many non-Chinese scientists started talking about boycotting the event altogether, since even Chinese graduate students and post docs working in the US with US scientists would be barred.
In what looks like an attempt at damage control, both NASA and Congressman Frank Wolf (who had initiated the law) said that the whole thing was a ‘misunderstanding’ by NASA administrators about what the law required and that it took longer to correct because of delays caused by the government shut down.
“The initial decision was based on a misinterpretation of the agency’s policy regarding foreign nationals,” Mr Beutel said.
“We were able to clarify that interpretation and correct the decision, but it didn’t happen until the federal government reopened last Thursday.”
Mr Wolf later called Nasa’s reading of the legislation “inaccurate” and sought to clarify the original intent of the law.
“The congressional provision – which has been in place since early 2011 – primarily restricts bilateral, not multilateral, meetings and activities with the Communist Chinese government or Chinese-owned companies,” Mr Wolf wrote in an 8 October letter to Nasa Administrator Charles Bolden.
“It places no restrictions on activities involving individual Chinese nationals unless those nationals are acting as official representatives of the Chinese government,” he wrote.
I don’t blame NASA officials for taking an overly restrictive view of the law since they can come in for harsh treatment from Congress if they make a wrong move.