Trump officials limit government scientists allowed to attend conference: report

Trump officials limit government scientists allowed to attend conference: report
© Greg Nash

Hundreds of U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists were barred from attending an industry conference this month.

The Washington Post reported Friday that the Interior Department, which oversees the USGS, capped the number of scientists who were allowed to attend the annual American Geophysical Union meeting at 199 and expenditures for the event at $399,000.

Consequently, 178 USGS scientists attended the conference — 60 percent fewer than last year, the Post reported. What's more, 30 abstracts that were intended to be presented at the conference were withdrawn.

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A spokeswoman for the Interior Department told the Post that the decision to reduce the number of researchers who could attend the conference hinged on a desire to save taxpayer money.

The Obama administration's past decisions to allow more scientists to attend the conference signaled the administration's "addiction to spending," the spokeswoman said, according to the Post.

The Trump administration has proposed deep cuts to the Interior Department's budget. Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeThe Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks BLM issues final plan for reduced Utah monument New policy at Interior's in-house watchdog clamps down on interactions with press MORE, the department's secretary, told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee earlier this year that he planned to reduce the agency's staff by about 4,000 employees.

USGS's funding has remained relatively consistent under recent short-term spending measures.

Marcia McNutt, who served as USGS director during former President Obama's first term in office, told the Post that the Trump administration's decision to restrict the number of researchers at the conference hindered the scientists' ability to "be on the cutting edge" of research in their field.

“If you aren’t there, if you have to wait until all that gets published, you are in the backwoods of science," she said. "And all of those people who didn’t get to go are basically sitting there in the backwoods in the dark.”