The following was a letter from American College of Neuropsychopharmacology to the Senate concerning travel restrictions:

Dear Senator:

I am writing to express my concern regarding travel restrictions that would be imposed on NIH employees attending scientific conferences by the Coburn Amendment #67.  I believe that restrictions such as these, prompted by widely publicized events at another federal agency, risk having unintended, long-term consequences for science directed at combatting mental illness and brain disorders.  For that reason I oppose the Coburn Amendment.

As a member of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP), I am particularly concerned about the impact of these restrictions on the ACNP Annual Meeting.  Participation by staff members from several NIH institutes, including NIMH, NIDA, NIAAA, NINDS, and NIA is critical for ACNP to succeed in its medical, scientific and training missions. Participation by extramural program officers has traditionally allowed them to provide critical advice and guidance to young investigators on grantsmanship. In addition, numerous intramural investigators are among our members, scientific leaders and officers. The strategic importance of the ACNP’s relationship to the NIH is illustrated by the fact that Institute Directors from the respective NIH Institutes annually present updates to ACNP members in a plenary session.

Across the board travel restrictions such as are being proposed in the Coburn Amendment disrupt interactions that are at the core of the scientific process, and are thus counterproductive. They will negatively impact progress in psychiatry for years to come. The enormous investment of taxpayer dollars in research is diminished when the knowledge, techniques, and novel findings are not actively shared and disseminated among scientists at key scientific meetings. Therefore, we urge you to oppose this Amendment.

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