Dismay over the new rules bubbled over into the nonstop schedule of presentations and meetings here this week, which drew a wide array of experts in Earth and planetary science.
Scott Borg, who directs the National Science Foundation's Antarctic research office, acknowledged the impact of the travel restrictions during a meeting Tuesday of scientists who conduct federally funded research in Antarctica.
"The federal government has been put under a lot of pressure on travel thanks to the General Services Administration," Borg said just before he cued up a video message from Kelly Falkner, the head of NSF's Office of Polar Programs, who was not able to travel to San Francisco.
And a Monday morning session on polar ice began with Michael Studinger, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, announcing that "budget problems" had prevented one of the researchers who organized the series of talks from attending them.
That scientist, Jackie Richter-Menge of the Army Corps of Engineers' Cold Regions Research Laboratory in Hanover, N.H., also missed a Wednesday press conference to release a major government report on the Arctic that she helped edit.
Some agencies feel the pinch; others don't
Especially frustrating, many researchers said, is the wide variation in the way federal agencies are interpreting the new rules.
Several NASA employees said they had little trouble getting permission to come to the meeting, where agency researchers unveiled new results from the Mars rovers Curiosity and Opportunity, the Voyager mission to the edge of the solar system, and twin satellites studying gravity on the moon.
USGS also managed to send a sizable contingent, thanks to McNutt's lobbying, although the agency chief was quick to note that this year's attendees were limited to those presenting research, serving on AGU committees and boards, or receiving honors from the society.
NOAA was also well-represented. But many researchers said the Energy and Defense departments had greatly limited their employees' attendance at this week's meeting. No one from the Army Corps' research division was allowed to go, for example.
The Army Corps even refused travel assistance offered to its scientists by collaborators at other agencies, sources said. Some Army Corps scientists took matters into their own hands, using vacation time and their own money to get to San Francisco.
"For me, the frustration is the fact that good work is getting done by government employees and we're not able to showcase that. We're not able to show people what we are doing in support of our government and, frankly, those tax dollars," one Army Corps employee said. "I just don't think this was the intention of the restriction, and it's not being implemented consistently from one government agency to another."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500