This represents a dramatic break with previous ethical boundaries and will eviscerate any opportunities for NWS employees to participate in conferences, thereby representing a policy that threatens the very existence of the NWA and, ultimately, the AMS. Once again, it seems that NOAA, acting through the advice of its General Counsel, is responding to political pressure in a way that is destructive to the NWS.
I have long considered NOAA to be a bloated bureaucracy of incompetent parasites. But this attack on the scientific activities of NWS employees is both inexplicable and unconscionable. What possible reason could there be for these ridiculous new policies? What political pressure is creating this response from NOAA General Counsel? What ethical abuses will this prevent? Has it ever been shown that any abuses resulting from NWS employee participation in conferences have been detrimental to NWS forecasts or to the science? Can anyone show there is any real need for this massive change in NWS policies regarding the participation of their employees in conferences?
Of late, attendance at scientific conferences by NWS employees has been on the wane. Presumably, this reflects a short-sighted policy in response to budget pressures associated with federal budget deficits. The recent tendency has been to reduce the presence of NWS forecasters at scientific conferences, where a good deal of the business of science takes place. Some NWS forecasters have been participating at their own expense and on their own time - the new policies apparently will prevent even that! This not only inhibits the dissemination of NWS research findings, but it limits the opportunity for scientific peers to provide direct feedback to the authors of that research.
The dramatic reductions in participation in science by NWS employees we have seen will pale to insignificance when these new policies are implemented. The impact on the NWA, which is dominated by operational weather forecasters, could be devastating. Even the AMS will suffer as a result of the non-participation of so many operational weather forecasters.
There can be no good reason for this unnecessary change in policy. If NWS managers buckle under the pressure of NOAA management, this will constitute a huge blow to the entire science of meteorology, which has long struggled with the operations-research interface. An "iron curtain" will have descended on that interface, to the detriment of all. For shame, NOAA!