Eric Rosenthal Reports

Thoughts and observations about issues, trends, and controversies in the cancer community.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Government Shutdown Restricts Researchers from Meeting Presentations, with Strict Penalties



This year’s Cancer Research Institute (CRI) International Cancer Immunotherapy Symposium in New York was scheduled from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2, which just happened to overlap with the timing of the federal government shutdown Oct. 1.


So what happened to the government scientists in attendance?


According to CRI, they had been informed by email that participation past Oct. 1 might be punishable by “fines or possible jail time.”


This led to NCI’s Romina Goldszmid, PhD, having to cancel her Oct. 1 plenary talk on “Innate Immunity, Microbiota, and Response to Cancer Therapy,” and another government scientist had to reschedule his presentation to earlier in the meeting, Sept. 30, before the cutoff.


I spoke with Brian Brewer, CRI Director of Marketing and Communications, who said that many conference attendees found the situation “insane and ridiculous” and were disappointed they couldn’t hear certain presentations. He added that a number of people left the meeting early.


I contacted John Burklow, NIH Associate Director for Communications and Public Liaison to confirm the accuracy of the wording of potential punishment for federal employees participating in presentations past Oct. 1. He replied that he was the only NIH communications officer not on furlough and so although he was not able to speak to me before this posting, he did respond by email that yes, that was his understanding about the threatened punishments.