POSTPONEMENT OF THE 8TH INTERNATIONAL MARS CONFERENCE TO 2014
Update issued March 26, 2013
The impacts of sequestration on the Federal budget have led to new travel policies that severely constrain the participation of NASA center employees, including JPL, and other government employees (e.g., the U.S. Geological Survey) in scientific conferences, including the planned 8th International Mars Conference set for July 15–19 on the Caltech campus. The current fiscal environment is sufficiently restrictive that we, the organizers of the conference, have decided to delay the meeting for one year, holding it instead in June/July of 2014. We sought advice from the MEPAG Executive Committee, which unanimously concurred with our decision.
We were preparing for a general mailing last Monday when NASA Headquarters asked us to hold off and consider whether the conference could be hosted electronically. This was a reasonable request, given recent success for several meetings held via electronic media. However, after consideration, we felt that this would not work for the 8th International Conference on Mars. This series of Mars conferences have at opportune times provided comprehensive looks at our state of knowledge regarding Mars. They are, by design (e.g., broad participation, no parallel sessions, and, yes, a captive audience in an academic setting) meant to foster cross-disciplinary discussion, integration, and innovation.
Although it was our strong preference to hold the conference this year, the meeting in 2014 will include even more results from Mars, including Curiosity's further exploration of Gale Crater, as the rover will then be well into the second year of its primary science mission. We have no doubt that Mars will remain in the news in the coming year, given the ongoing orbital and surface exploration of the planet, and there could be several focused workshops or conferences in that time; each needs to decide if an electronic forum is appropriate. In the meantime, we will work with NASA over the coming year to obtain its approval for extensive participation by its researchers, which is vital to the overall success of a conference that is on the scale of its predecessors. We look forward to a full conference in June/July 2014 and hope to see you there.
Dan McCleese, Dave Beaty, and Rich Zurek
8th International Mars Conference Conveners