TWS responds to USGS attempts to limit conference engagement

By Laura Bies

USGS biologists work on Laysan duck (Anas laysanensis) translocations from Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Under a recently proposed internal policy, USGS employees’ conference travel would be more limited. ©Eric Dale/USFWS Volunteer

The Wildlife Society, along with the other members of the U.S. Geological Survey Coalition, recently responded to a new policy that would limit USGS employee attendance at scientific meetings. The members sent a letter supporting their attendance to USGS Director James Reilly in response to a new internal policy. The policy, outlined below, has reportedly been delayed due to several questions arising from USGS employees regarding its implementation.

The proposed policy aims to limit an employee’s participation to only one large conference per year — a large conference is one for which the agency has estimated costs of $100,000 or more, such as this year’s joint AFS-TWS meeting. The policy would require that an employee’s attendance supports USGS mission area objectives and DOI priorities, aligns with the employee’s respective position assignment and will deliver key science findings through the employee’s participation as a presenter at any conference.

The policy also requires an employee to be a presenter, invited keynote speaker, session or workshop chair, instructor, early/new career scientist, award recipients or officer in the host organization. Attendance motivated through any other participation will be decided on a case-by-case basis, as will attendance by individuals of USGS’ senior leadership and those manning staff USGS exhibit booths. The policy also encourages participation in smaller, topical conferences as opposed to large, general conferences.

The USGS Coalition letter emphasizes the importance of scientific and technical conferences for federal employees, noting that they provide venues for collaboration and connection with other scientists, as well as data gathering and information dissemination. The coalition stressed the value of both large and small conferences, since each provide different opportunities to connect with peers, share information and interact across disciplines.

The USGS Coalition is an alliance of over 80 organizations united by a commitment to the continued vitality of the USGS and its ability to provide critical data and services to the nation. Organizations within the coalition include professional societies with members that work for and in collaboration with USGS, such as The Wildlife Society, as well as private companies that rely on well-informed USGS employees and research.

Laura BiesLaura Bies is a government relations contractor and freelance writer for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has worked with The Wildlife Society since 2005. Read more of Laura's articles.

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