Wednesday, February 12, 2014

‘Visa labyrinth’ blamed for stifling global science

Jan Piotrowski in Governments must address the “visa labyrinth” that restricts the work-related travel of scientists and engineers if they want to improve progress on international issues such as climate change and build scientific capacity in the developing world, experts have warned.

Martyn Poliakoff, foreign secretary of the Royal Society, United Kingdom, says that, while concerns over immigration are legitimate, current policies that entail long and complicated visa application processes are stifling scientific collaboration and the exchange of ideas.

“While everyone accepts that diplomats must travel for their jobs, I don’t think it is acknowledged that scientists and engineers need to travel,” he tells SciDev.Net. “The visa labyrinth that scientists must navigate is often interpreted as a message to ‘stay at home’.”

In an editorial published in Science last month (31 January), Poliakoff says that the free-flow of expertise is essential for tackling global challenges, such as climate change or antibiotic resistance, and for training a new generation of scientific leaders in the developing world.

He calls on leaders of the G8 leading economic nations, who are scheduled to meet representatives of national science academies in Moscow, Russia, in April to acknowledge the need for a “single, worldwide scientific community”...

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