Space & Innovation

Science Solidarity List Offers Labs to Scientists Stranded by Travel Ban

A group of scientists started an online resource to offer labs and accommodations to their colleagues who cannot enter the U.S. due to Trump's recent executive order.

Since President Trump signed an executive order to temporarily ban citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., there have been many offers to assist those left stranded by the decision.

AirBnb has offered free housing to refugees who have nowhere to stay due to the ban, and both Canada and Scotland have reaffirmed that refugees are welcome in their countries.

Upon hearing that Iranian scientist Samira Asgari, who was heading to Boston to begin a postdoctoral fellowship on tuberculosis, was not allowed to enter the U.S., two plant scientists from Austria were inspired to take action as well.

Jürgen Kleine-Vehn tweeted Saturday, "I can't believe this is happening." Magnus Nordborg soon responded, "I think we can host people who are stuck, right? Preferably in a suitable lab, of course."

"I have found myself stranded and there are, of course, many historical examples," Nordborg told Seeker. "Thus I volunteered my lab on Twitter, and Jürgen Kleine-Vehn quickly followed suit."

Maria Leptin, director of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), reached out to Nordborg to discuss the possibility of creating a resource for scientists who are stranded because of the ban.

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"There was widespread frustration here in Europe, and a general desire to help," Leptin told Seeker. "Some people and institutes had begun to offer help to stranded scientists, and it occurred to us that EMBO was in a good position to bundle these efforts, using our wide network of top scientists."

This idea quickly turned into a movement aimed at protecting the integrity of science.

On Tuesday evening, EMBO launched the Science Solidarity List, which is "offering temporary bench or desk space, library access and possibly even accommodation for US-based scientists who are stranded abroad due to the White House Executive Order 13769."

The idea caught on very quickly, gaining 380 volunteers from 31 countries within 24 hours. "Because we knew about the views of our colleagues throughout Europe, I expected that many scientists would contribute to this list," Leptin said. "But we are overwhelmed by the uptake. This evening, at the beginning of day two, we still receive offers every few minutes."

The majority of volunteers are from European countries but the list has received offers from scientists in Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Israel, India, China, Brazil and Canada, among others.

"EMBO was founded to foster international scientific exchange," Leptin said. "We believe this is a core value of the research community, and is necessary for the advancement of science and scientific careers."

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