More than 3,500 scientists, engineers and others representing government, industry and universities from 50 countries are meeting this week at the Materials Science & Technology 2012 Conference in Pittsburgh. These technology leaders are gathering to shape the future of materials science technology and discoveries in the areas of energy (traditional and renewable), iron and steel production, bio- and nanomaterials, ceramic and glass -- to name a few.
The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society and the Association for Iron & Steel Technology, both headquartered in Warrendale, are hosting the conference along with the American Ceramic Society, ASM International and NACE International. According to VisitPittsburgh, official tourism promotion agency for Allegheny County, MS&T attendees will spend approximately $3.1 million while at the conference.
This year, some government attendees are absent as U.S. agencies are curtailing travel budgets in anticipation of mandated travel restrictions. Congress recently developed proposed legislation to limit federal travel expenses and to increase accountability in the aftermath of a scandal that involved ridiculously excessive spending by the General Services Administration in conducting one of its own conferences. It's hard to argue with that idea.
Unfortunately, the actual language of amendments to the "Digital Accountability and Transparency Act" (HR 2146) and the "21st Century Postal Service Act" (S 1789) deeply affects not only government-managed conferences but also those held by trade associations and professional societies.
TMS and more than 2,100 member societies of The American Society of Association Executives signed a letter to Congress expressing concern over the devastating effects such legislation has on government scientists and researchers' ability to interact with peers from private industry and universities. The dialogue between these groups is critical to developing informed policymaking that facilitates economic growth and job creation.
Far from being wasteful, government participation in peer-driven meetings such as this week's MS&T represents not just a wise but also an essential investment of time and energy that serves to build jobs and enhance competitiveness for all of us.
JAMES J. ROBINSON
The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society