I am writing this letter to bring to your attention a serious problem at NIH dealing with travel to meetings outside the United States. Recently, I submitted an abstract to a meeting entitled "Regulation of Eukaryotic DNA Replication" that is being sponsored by McGill University in Montreal. I thought that presenting our data at this meeting would provide a great way to exchange ideas with a highly regarded group of scientists working on DNA replication. Our abstract was accepted by the meeting committee, and a paper describing this research is currently in press in The Journal of Biological Chemistry. I have been informed by an administrative officer here at NIDDK, Ms. Mary Espada, that travel costs for this meeting will not be covered by NIH since the meeting will be held outside the United States. I am not sure what the purpose of this restriction is. What it certainly seems to say is that it is not worth sending young NIH scientists outside the country to discuss science. Why is there this restriction on international discussion for postdoctoral scientists? Is this not part of the mission of science? Because I cannot afford to pay for this trip form my own pocket, I am forced to withdraw our abstract from the meeting program. In my withdrawal letter, I intend to make the committee aware of the NIH policy on foreign travel for postdoctoral scientists. I am shocked that this policy has been practiced for any length of time and thought it warranted being brought to your attention.
Renee M. Howell, Ph.D.
Although senior scientists are more likely to receive support to attend international meetings from NIH's limited foreign travel funds, postdocs are also eligible for support. They must obtain advance approval for international travel from their supervisor and Scientific Director. Howell has since received money to attend the meeting.