WASHINGTON - A decision by NASA to bar Chinese scientists from an upcoming conference was deemed "inaccurate" Tuesday by the US congressman who wrote the law on which the restriction is based.
The US space agency's announcement that Chinese nationals would not be permitted to enter the Second Kepler Science Conference on exoplanets at California's Ames Research Center November 4-8 sparked a boycott by some prominent US astronomers.
"In good conscience, I cannot attend a meeting that discriminates in this way. The meeting is about planets located trillions of miles away, with no national security implications," Geoff Marcy, an astronomy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in an email to the organizers.
The restriction is based on a law passed in 2011 and signed by President Barack Obama that prevents NASA funds from being used to collaborate with China or to host Chinese visitors at US space agency facilities.
The legal language was inserted into a funding bill by Congressman Frank Wolf, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies.
The law bans NASA funds from being used to work "bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company" or being "used to effectuate the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to or utilized by NASA," according to a copy of the legal text sent to AFP by Wolf's office.
However, Wolf's office issued a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on Tuesday seeking to correct an article on the matter that first appeared Friday in The Guardian newspaper, as well as NASA's stance.
"Unfortunately, the article is riddled with inaccuracies, as is, it appears, the guidance provided by NASA Ames staff to the attendees," said the letter.