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Scientists across the world welcome peers stranded by Trump’s visa ban

world Updated: Feb 05, 2017 18:59 IST
Trump visa ban

Protesters hold up a sign against US President Donald Trump's executive order banning refugees and immigrants from seven primarily Muslim countries from entering the United States during a rally in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US, on February 4, 2017.(Reuters)

Amid the controversy over US President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban, scientists across the world, including India, have opened up their lab spaces to counterparts stranded outside America.

Under the Science Solidarity List (SSL) initiative, researchers from over 30 countries have agreed to host the affected.

What began on social media as spontaneous offers of help from scientists to accommodate banned peers awaiting US clearance, following Trump’s January 27 order, has emerged as a clarion call to support those in need of immediate work spaces.

Anchored by the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO), the SSL is a “list of scientists 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, ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States’ of 27 January, 2017.”

On Friday, a US judge in Seattle issued a temporary nationwide block on Trump’s ban on travellers from seven Muslim nations. However, the White House said the justice department will challenge attorney’s decision.

Offers continue to pour in as science, literally, attempts to trump the ban.

There are currently over 800 offers of assistance and the list gets a new entry every five minutes or so.

“We felt we had to do something. It is very discriminating. This impacts science a lot. It impacts the work of the lab. Their projects do not get done because the scientists are missing. It impacts everyone,” Maria Leptin, director EMBO, told IANS over the phone from Heidelberg, Germany.

“We (scientists) see ourselves as a worldwide community and it is a completely natural thing for us to do,” she said.

EMBO is an organisation of more than 1,700 leading researchers that promotes excellence in life sciences.

Its programmes and activities are funded by the European Molecular Biology Conference (EMBC). The EMBC, founded in 1969, is an inter-governmental organisation comprising 33 member — and partner-states, including India, which came under its fold in February 2016.

The solidarity list comprises offers from both EMBC and non-EMBC countries.

Leptin was the first to join the list, extending help to host stranded researchers in her own lab at the University of Cologne.

While most of the host offers are from Europe, the list includes labs in India, Canada, Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Singapore, Brazil, and China.

The “overwhelming response” from the fraternity is trending under the hashtag ScienceShelters.

Among the first to make personal offers of assistance via Twitter were population geneticist Magnus Nordborg and plant biologist Jurgen Kleine-Vehn from Austria.