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Immigration Ban's Science Fallout

The executive order signed by President Donald Trump Friday that prohibits citizens of seven countries from entering the US for at least 90 days is already affecting science, according to the New Scientist. The ban targets citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and also blocks refugees from entering the country for 120 days and Syrian refugees indefinitely.

"This executive order will disrupt scientific research in America, plain and simple," Brittany Ulrich, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, tells Vox. "The scientific community thrives because of immigrants who want to be educated and work in American laboratories, and the field has always welcomed them."

A New York-area professor tells New Scientist that Iranian PhD students in his department are worried that they won't be able to visit family and return again to the US. Vox adds that Iranian Seyed Saravi was barred from boarding a flight to the US to start his cardiovascular pharmacology fellowship at Harvard, while Samira Asgari, also Iranian, was stopped from boarding her flight to take up a genomics postdoc position at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Both New Scientist and Vox report that immigrant researchers in the US are canceling plans to attend conferences abroad for fear they won't be let back in, while researchers abroad are canceling plans to attend conferences in the US, both because they aren't sure they'd be allowed in and in protest of the ban.

"In terms of scientific diplomacy, this is obviously a big hit on US soft power — the capacity to attract the best and the brightest," Marga Soler, project director for the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy, tells New Scientist. "Brain drain is a real possibility because other countries, like Canada, are offering to take in the people affected by this policy. It's a loss for the US."