Thursday, April 03, 2003

decline and fall... [Nature]
Researchers from countries as diverse as Indonesia and Germany are now subject to detailed security checks and rigorous interviews. The clampdown covers first-time visitors to the United States and those returning to lab positions there -- delaying trips by weeks or months, and deterring some from coming at all.

The consequences of the change, which intensified with the introduction last August of new visa guidelines for consular officials, could be far-reaching. "We are in a rapid transition, whereby the United States will cease to be the destination of choice for researchers," predicts Irving Lerch, director of international affairs at the American Physical Society....

US research programmes, such as that of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey Bay, California, are also feeling the pinch. Several researchers from the countries that the centre needs to work with, including China and parts of the former Soviet Union, have been denied entry to the United States. "I'm supportive of greater controls, but they are using a very blunt instrument and they are weeding out the wrong people," argues Clay Moltz, a project director at the centre. Before 11 September 2001, Moltz says, he could usually talk to the US embassy in the country concerned to move an application along. Now the embassies don't return his calls. "There is no communication at all. You file these things and wait," he says.

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