The following is a thoughtful message from the Interational Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) Board of Directors. The same is a reflection of the ongoing tribulations of our political climate. Unfortunately, if the political policies within our country remain the same we will have to face a loss of international collaboration and possibly an exodus of our academicians. I join the Board of Directors of IMFAR in denouncing the “restrictive immigration policies that will impact researchers, students, and persons with autism and their families”.
The Board of Directors of the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) is deeply troubled about the potential negative impact of President Trump’s Executive Order concerning restrictions on immigration to the United States on a core part of the INSAR mission: To promote collaboration among researchers, students, clinicians, and stakeholders worldwide to better the lives of individuals and families living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Autism science is greatly enriched by collaborations and ideas from all over the globe. INSAR joins with the Association of American Universities (AAU) in urging that “the administration’s new order barring the entry or return of individuals from certain countries…should end as quickly as possible.” We support the AAU’s call for the United States to continue “to welcome the most talented individuals from all countries to study, teach, and carry out research and scholarship at our universities.”
The new travel restrictions are perplexing and unsettling. They will potentially prevent researchers, scientists, and stakeholders from the seven identified countries from sharing their research at the May 2017 International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) in San Francisco, California. Nearly 25% of the 2016 INSAR meeting’s 2,000 attendees were from non-United States countries. About 30% of INSAR members represent non-United States countries. If the ban remains, it could prevent non-United States-based ASD thought and research leaders from attending future United States-based conferences. Furthermore, United States-based scholars from the identified countries who hold visas or green cards may not be able to travel to INSAR meetings when they are held outside of the United States. This will have a direct, detrimental impact on our scientific community, scientific progress, and those who benefit from the research that we conduct and disseminate. Ultimately, we believe that this will slow progress in understanding autism and related disorders and in finding more effective treatments to lessen disabilities for those affected.
As an organization, we must think carefully about whether to host future international meetings for autism research in the United States. As an international society, it would be inappropriate to hold the largest annual meeting on autism research in any country that restricts access to our colleagues worldwide.
As the Board of Directors of INSAR, we are unanimous in our denunciation of restrictive immigration policies that will impact researchers, students, and persons with autism and their families. The INSAR Board of Directors will be bringing these concerns to the attention of policy makers and the public. As members of INSAR, we encourage you to do so as well. This article also appears on the INSAR website.
Geraldine Dawson, PhD
President, International Society for Autism Research
Simon-Baron Cohen, PhD
Craig Newschaffer, PhD
David Amaral, PhD
Autism Research, Editor
University of California, Davis
Francesca Happé, PhD
Kings College London
Katarzyna Chawarska, PhD
Raphael Bernier, PhD
University of Washington
James McPartland, PhD