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Welcome to the May issue of our newsletter for 2019.

By the time this goes out, I and nine other members of SOVS staff will be in Vancouver where we are attending the 2019 meeting of The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO). The meeting is entitled “From bench to bedside and back” and brings together thousands of the best vision researchers from around the world every year. I am delighted the school will be so represented this year since ARVO provides an opportunity for us to showcase SOVS’ world-leading research, and for us to connect with international researchers to learn first-hand about innovation outside of New Zealand.

Given how important it is for junior staff to make these connections I am particularly pleased that this year’s meeting is being held not in the United States (as is usual) but in Canada. This is because the series of executive orders made by Donald Trump in 2017 restricts entry to the US by citizens of eight predominantly Muslim countries. The outcome of this is that researchers originating from countries such as Iran are now banned from some of the largest scientific conferences in the world including The Society for Neuroscience Meeting, and ARVO. These measures place a fundamental restriction on scientific expression which impacts directly on SOVS staff and students and threatens international scientific partnerships. It is my belief that – even given recent setbacks such as the US Supreme Court upholding the ban – scientists need to be more proactive in publicising the negative impact of this policy on science and to vote with their feet when it comes to attendance of “international” meetings hosted in the United States.

In other news we warmly welcome Rowena Knight-Brown as our new permanent Group Services Coordinator and farewell our temp Nadine Schneemann who has held the fort for us in the last three months while we recruited into this role.

Finally our congratulations go out to all the winners of the NZAO Awards, which were presented by the NZAO on Thursday 11 April. The NZAO’s ongoing support of our students and programme is greatly appreciated.