Is the U.S. creating a hostile environment for foreign researchers?

By David
August 18, 2005

The NY Times yesterday ran a troubling article about the visa problems of a Chinese cryptographer who was unable to present an important paper detailing her research on SHA-1 at this week’s Crypto 2005 conference:

On Monday, [Xiaoyun Wang] was scheduled to explain her discovery in a keynote address to an international group of researchers meeting in California.

But a stand-in had to take her place, because she was not able to enter the country. Indeed, only one of nine Chinese researchers who sought to enter the country for the conference received a visa in time to attend.

Although none of the scientists were officially denied visas by the United States Consulate, officials at the State Department and National Academy of Sciences said this week that the situation was not uncommon.

Lengthy delays in issuing visas are now routine, they said, particularly for those involved in sensitive scientific and technical fields.

Bruce Schneier offers his perspective on the situation on his weblog.

Taking into account such visa problems and other constraints on foreign researchers, such as current U.S. deemed export control policies (and the changes that have been proposed to those policies lately [1, 2]), it is easy to understand the computing research community’s growing concern about what is perceived as an increasingly hostile research environment in the U.S. for foreign researchers — researchers who play a key role in U.S.-based research and innovation.