The recent thawing of U.S.-Cuba relations may be chilled by the incoming Congress, but researchers are encouraged.
Since 2009 the Treasury Department has allowed U.S. scientists to conduct research visits to Cuba. But the changes announced by the Obama Administration should make it easier to conduct research in Cuba and collaborate with Cuban scientists. Once the country is removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, it will no longer be necessary to obtain an export license to bring scientific equipment to Cuba. Travel licenses for scientists should become easier to obtain, meaning it should be easier for American scientists to attend scientific meetings in Cuba and vice versa. AAAS is quite pleased with the development, in part due to its efforts over the last several years to strengthen collaborative opportunities between the two countries.
Perhaps the most widespread scientific impact of this thaw in relations could come from infectious disease research. With Cuba’s proximity to Florida, tracking infectious tropical disease is of great interest to both countries, especially with the recent spread of dengue and chikungunya to both the U.S. and Cuba.