SPIE urges leaders in the US government to end the shutdown immediately

14 January 2019
US Capitol Building

With the partial US government shutdown reaching an unprecedented duration, the effect on the optics and photonics community is increasingly apparent. In addition to personal financial hardships, work stoppage has scientific ramifications and technical costs created by restarting experiments, gaps in long-term data, and disrupted work-in-progress. When researchers must leave their labs for an undetermined amount of time they fall behind, lose results, and face unplanned expenses. Interruptions in equipment acquisition and distribution of research funding will handicap future accomplishments and impair economic growth.

SPIE CEO and former acting NIST Director Kent Rochford experienced both a lengthy shutdown as a researcher and the threats of a shutdown during his time managing NIST labs. He recounts the unnecessary costs and stress caused during that time. "Preparing for a shutdown is difficult for everyone - researchers and engineers are no different," says Rochford. "Determining how to interrupt processes and when to turn systems off, cataloguing and justifying who is deemed ‘necessary,' figuring out how to salvage long-running measurements, planning how to deal with cryogenic liquids and hazards, and managing the cancellations of access to user facilities, it all becomes a frustrating exercise in managing an inherent waste of taxpayer dollars. On top of this is the stress of personal situations, with the greatest burden placed on young researchers, postdocs, and stranded visiting researchers. It makes these situations even more agonizing.

"Our community of optics and photonics researchers and engineers work diligently to improve our lives with science and technology," Rochford added. "Holding up their progress and adding stress to their lives and livelihood is politics at its worst. SPIE will continue our work advocating that science and technology programs be fully and immediately funded, and we are prepared to assist our members being affected by the shutdown." The basic and applied research being done by federally funded researchers drives the world economic engine, from next-generation telecommunications and advanced computing to clean energy and improvements in medicine and healthcare. Furthermore, perimeter sensing, night vision, and surveillance technologies that help with border protection rely on optics and photonics R&D.

SPIE recognizes the limitations federally funded researchers have in traveling and presenting their research during a shutdown. SPIE is hopeful that the US government will reopen prior to Photonics West starting 2 February and is monitoring the situation closely. Once the government reopens, SPIE will honor early registration prices for affected attendees who were unable to purchase registration earlier due to the shutdown.

Should the government remain shut down during Photonics West, SPIE will communicate directly with conference chairs, presenters, and attendees who may be unable to travel due to the shutdown.

SPIE encourages any presenter or author scheduled to attend SPIE Photonics West who believes their travel or participation may be affected by the partial shutdown to communicate with conference organizers via email to authorhelp@spie.org.

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