Leaders of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, have written a letter to United States President Donald Trump expressing concerns regarding an executive order issued last week banning entry to visa holders whose country of origin is Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, or Yemen.
The request is similar to others being made by scientific societies, and is made as SPIE hosts Photonics West, the world's largest optics and photonics conference, in San Francisco, California. Several scientists traveling from Canada, the United Kingdom, and other countries who intended to present at and participate in the conference were denied entry.
“We were surprised and disappointed to hear that speakers and attendees for this conference were denied entry into the United States,” said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. “These scientists had spent considerable time and money preparing to come and contribute to the scientific program, where they have always been welcome. They had no reason to think this was not the case yet again this year.”
Arthurs noted that the benefits of international scientific conferences to the economy and to society as a whole are well established.
“As a scientific society, a core element of our mission is to provide forums where researchers can share advances that benefit people everywhere,” he said. “At this conference specifically, a major focus is on technology and applications in biomedical imaging that help improve healthcare around the world.”
Scientific collaboration is core to technological advancements that enhance lives around the world in many ways, and the brilliant minds behind these advancements know no border or country of origin, the letter to the President said.
“It is in our nation’s best interest to ensure that these types of interactions continue to happen within the United States,” said SPIE Government Affairs Director Jennifer Douris. “SPIE is concerned that the executive order as currently written will discourage the broader scientific community from travel to the United States.”
In its letter, SPIE offered the society’s assistance in working with the administration to develop policies that provide the necessary security checks at U.S. borders without inhibiting international scientific collaboration.