COLLEGE PARK, MD: The American Physical Society (APS), the largest professional body of physicists in the world, has been promoting media coverage of the visa restrictions affecting foreign scientists, which is significantly contributing to a growing national dialogue on the issue.
Since September 11 and the subsequent passing of the controversial Patriot Act, many graduate, post-doctoral, and professional scientists have had trouble obtaining visas that allow them to continue US-based work at universities and other institutions. The problem has been especially severe for Chinese citizens, according to David Harris, head of media relations for the APS. Without the specialized knowledge of such researchers, many projects have been slowed, and teaching vacancies have increased at numerous schools.
To increase awareness of the problem, the APS first conducted a survey of physics departments to document the problem and give journalists and State Department officials a credible reference point for understanding the effect of the new regulations.
Harris said that since the survey, he has been raising the issue with media contacts.
"It hasn't been a large-scale media effort, but it's an issue we have been doing a lot of work with. I am certainly suggesting to a lot of journalists that this is a topic of interest," he said.
Harris has pitched the story as both a hurdle to US competitiveness in scientific research, and also by highlighting the economic impact the slowdown could have if new technologies and advances are delayed.
The issue has gained extensive press, including placements in magazines such as Scientific American and newspapers such as The Washington Post.