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January 2004

Sigma Xi International Newsletter
Volume 3, Number 1
January 2004

This monthly electronic bulletin is designed to keep subscribers updated on developments in Sigma Xi's international activities as well as provide links and topics of interest to researchers around the world. To submit an item to the newsletter, contact the Manager of International Programs at international@sigmaxi.org. If you would like to, you can download and print a PDF version of this newsletter. To receive notice of this monthly newsletter, please use this online form.

Past Issues

In This Issue

U.S. Visa Complications Continue to Impair Scientific Study and Research
Changes in immigration policies persist in disrupting the study and research of hundreds to thousands of non-citizens attempting to study or do research in the U.S. For a country whose scientific infrastructure is heavily dependent on international scientists and engineers, these developments are alarming. On a positive note, mandatory re-registration requirements under the National Security Entry/Exit Registration System were terminated last month. This month, the new United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program was inaugurated, under which visitors from all but 27 exempt countries traveling on visas to the U.S. will be required upon entry at air- and seaports to have two fingerprints scanned by an inkless device and a digital photograph taken by immigration officials. US-VISIT will eventually integrate this biometric data and 27 different biographical databases; the contract to complete this task is expected to be awarded around the end of May 2004.

Problems caused by recent policy changes include a radical increase in the number of required visa interviews without an accompanying increase in personnel; a rushed implementation of the new electronic tracking system (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System; SEVIS) that has not been properly tested; the requirement for current student and scholar visa holders to be re-screened after leaving the U.S. for academic, health or other personal reasons; the utilization of databases not required to meet accuracy regulations under the Privacy Act in the new US-VISIT program; and the possible incorporation of "student visa violators" to the National Crime Information Center database. The creation of an Interagency Panel on Advanced Science and Security was proposed last spring for government scientific experts to offer advice on science-related visa applications, but to our knowledge, this panel has not yet been formed.

The recent Association of International Educators (NAFSA) survey of higher education institutions reported a decline in international student enrollments and no change in the presence of international researchers/scholars from fall 2002 to fall 2003.  The same survey reported a 49% increase in visa delays for international students that resulted in missed start dates and a 76% increase in visa delays for researchers/scholars. Students and scholars in the sciences and engineering and those from Muslim or Arab countries were disproportionately affected. The Institute of International Education’s Open Doors 2003 survey reported an overall 0.6% increase in the number of international students in the U.S. from the 2001/2002 to the 2002/2003 school year.  This figure is dramatically reduced from previous two annual increases of 6.4%.

Multiple organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Medical Association, the American Physical Society, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Materials Research Society, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. National Science Board have documented the detrimental effects the new immigration policies are having on science and technology in the U.S.  The International Visitors Office (IVO) of the U.S. National Academies was established last year to assist scholars and students with visa difficulties.  A telling statistic collected by IVO’s visa questionnaire is that the average processing time for approved cases was 4.7 months, and the average wait time for cases that are still pending (33% of the 858 in which IVO has provided assistance) is 5.2 months. For a major research conference, presenters must typically register within two to four months of their abstracts being accepted.  As pointed out by Victor Johnson, associate executive director for public policy at NAFSA, these visa delays are equivalent to denial for students who must start the school year and scholars attending conferences.

Sigma Xi has first-hand experience with this widespread situation.  Dr. Mohamed Hassan, Executive Director of the Third World Academy of Sciences, was scheduled to be the opening plenary speaker at the Society’s Forum, Science & Engineering: Keys to International Understanding, last November. Although Dr. Hassan applied for a visa in February 2003 and had an interview in June 2003, the U.S. consulate in Milan has still not given either an approval or denial of his application as of January 2004. Meanwhile, he has missed at least six meetings in the U.S. since the expiration of his previous visa. Multiple organizations have attempted to facilitate his visa issuance, but to no avail. In all likelihood, this situation is due to the fact that Dr. Hassan’s passport is from one of the seven "designated state sponsors of terrorism": Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. In the world of research where science and engineering international collaborations are becoming increasingly common and, in some cases, absolutely necessary, refusing to allow individuals entry based on their nationality rather than their professional and personal history is a critical error. 

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PubMed Providing Links to Free Articles
The U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) has released DOCLINE 2.0 software that will direct PubMed users to free full text articles, when they exist, at PubMed Central or the publisher's website. DOCLINE is NLM's automated interlibrary loan request routing and referral system. Health sciences libraries and libraries at institutions with a health sciences mission are eligible to apply for access to the DOCLINE system.  [Source:
Open Access Blog]

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World Summit on the Information Society
A declaration of principles and a plan of action were adopted at the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva last month. More than 11,000 participants attended representing almost 1500 entities. A point of note is that the agreement, signed by the governments of 176 countries, explicitly supports Open Access, a principle described in the
October 2003 issue of this newsletter. The second phase of the WSIS is scheduled for November 2005 in Tunis to evaluate and assess progress made towards bridging the digital divide.

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Successful Workshop in Aba, Nigeria
This past September, 55 lecturers, students and researchers participated in a workshop on electronic information management of Web-based resources. Topics covered included general computer skills, an overview of the Internet, the World Health Organization’s Health Internet Access to Research Initiative, and evaluating the quality of information on the Internet. Dr. A.C. Adisa, head of the postgraduate training program at Abia State University Teaching Hospital and one of the workshop facilitators, said "The seminar provided a great opportunity for our scientists and clinicians to learn about the vast resources available for research through information/communication technology. As a result of the seminar, I now have  my research paper at the final stage of being published by BioMed Central, one of the open access initiative publishers." The Abia State University Tropical Disease Research Group organized the event, which was funded by a Sigma Xi Packard International Science Networking Initiative award.

Participants in the Abia State University Workshop

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InterAcademy Panel Recommendations
After meeting in Mexico City last month, the InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP) published statements containing recommendations to national governments in the areas of health of mother and child in developing countries, science education, scientific capacity building, science and the media, and access to scientific information. For example, the statement on scientific capacity building recommends the creation of national science and technology strategies, the continued development of centers of scientific excellence, expansion of North-South and South-South scientific cooperation, and implementation of programs for women and minorities interested in scientific careers. The complete statements have been posted
online. The IAP, based in Trieste, Italy, is a network of science academies from more than 80 different countries that holds a general assembly every three years.

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U.K. Encourages Publishers to Convert to Open Access
The U.K.’s Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) has allocated £150,000 to assist journal publishers converting to a model where authors have to pay to have papers published. By reducing the cost entailed in the change, JISC hopes to make research journals will be freely available on the Internet for all users. [Source:
SPARC Open Access Newsletter]

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Did You Know?
The
infoDev Incubator Initiative aims to enhance entrepreneurship, innovation, and competitiveness of small business communities in developing countries. Proposals for planning, capacity building and operational grants of US$30,000–500,000 for business incubators and support organizations in developing countries are being solicited, and the deadline is January 20, 2004. Support organizations include non-profit centers for business development, science and technology parks, consortiums involving the above-mentioned types of organizations, and groups and networks of existing incubators. [Source: Digital Dividend Digest]

The Development Gateway Foundation is accepting nominations for the Petersberg Prize, recognizing the most exemplary contribution in the field of information and communication technologies for development during the past ten years. The winner will receive a €100,000 prize, and nominations are due February 1, 2004. For more information, see the award program's Web site or send an e-mail to prize@dgfoundation.org. The same foundation is also accepting proposals for Implementation Grants under its Grants and Investments Program. These grants will assist country-level Development Gateway partners in implementing their own Country Gateways. Applications are due February 2, 2004. [Source: Bellanet]

The Fogarty International Center's International Research Scientist Development Award is for U.S. biomedical or behavioral scientists at the postdoctoral level who seek an opportunity to continue research in, or extend their research experience into, developing countries. It provides awardees with a period of mentored research as part of an established collaboration between a U.S. sponsor and leading scientists at a developing country center of scientific excellence. Applications must be received by February 13, 2004. To learn more about this program, either see the program Web site or contact Rachel Nugent.

Students around the world have until February 28, 2004 to form international teams and submit initial applications for the Mondialogo Engineering Award. The objective of this award is to promote intercultural dialogue and cooperation between educational engineering institutions in developing and developed countries. Students from the fields of engineering and technology are invited to jointly develop and submit ideas and solutions from one of eleven topics. The projects should: help to advance the technological infrastructures of developing countries; demonstrate excellence in the application of engineering; help to improve living conditions by addressing basic needs such as the provision of water, food and medical services or the creation of housing; and correspond with the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, particularly those of poverty eradication and sustainable development.

UNESCO’s Space Education Program, EURISY, and the Norwegian Space Center have announced three "space" contests for schoolchildren worldwide. The monthly Children’s Art Competition is for 6–10 year-olds, the Essay Contest is for 11–15 year-olds, and the Science Fiction Writing Contest is for 16–19 year-olds.  Deadlines for the latter two contests are in April 2004. [Source: A World of Science Newsletter]

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Upcoming Meetings
Latin American Workshop II: Strengthening Editors and Scientists Capabilities in Electronic Publishing; Valparaíso, Chile; January 14–15, 2004.

Biological Sciences, Development and Society; Cairo, Egypt; January 18–22, 2004.

Engineering and Scientific Publishing—Relationships and Issues for the Now and the Future; Washington DC, U.S.; February 11–12, 2004.

World Congress on Natural Disaster Mitigation; New Delhi, India; February 19–21, 2004.

 

For more information on any of the programs mentioned in this newsletter, please contact:

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society
P. O. Box 13975, 3106 East NC Highway 54
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709 USA
Telephone: +1-919-549-4691 or +1-919-547-5246
Fax: +1-919-547-5263
E-mail: international@sigmaxi.org

 

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