Travel and Conference Cutbacks Are Harming Innovation, Survey Finds

Federal employees cope by attending webinars, reading relevant publications and websites.

Congress and the Obama administration’s cost-cutting curbs on agency travel to conferences and trade shows are putting a crimp on innovation and collaboration, according to a new survey. The cutbacks also mean contractors must modernize their tools for communicating with procurement officials, the firms Boscobel Marketing Communications and Market Connections found.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents to the marketing companies’ survey agreed that innovation and collaboration within government and between government and industry will be negatively affected by the spending cuts. The study included 161 government contractors and 383 federal government employees across civilian, defense and independent agencies.

Government employees are attending fewer events, with nearly 72 percent of agency respondents reporting they have traveled to fewer events this year than in 2012. Among contractors, half said their company plans for exhibiting at events are scaled back this year.

About two-thirds of agency respondents agreed that “it will be more difficult to maintain best practices in their fields and that government will become more siloed. Individuals told researchers that they’re no longer getting sufficient training to do their jobs, with one commenting, ‘Scientific conferences provide information you just can't get through [other] sources.’ ” Seventy-two percent of participants said they believe collaboration between government and industry will be affected negatively, and 65 percent said the cutbacks will hurt innovation within the government.

“Perhaps the most significant result,” the survey analysts wrote, “was that 77 percent of agency respondents agreed that industry will need to become more creative in informing and educating government customers.” Some 91 percent of the industry respondents agreed, though they parted ways with agency counterparts on which new approaches to pursue.

Agency respondents said they are coping with cuts through increased participation in webinars (55 percent); reading publications in their fields (52 percent); and reviewing websites related to their fields (48 percent).

Contractors’ top priorities were discussions with government personnel (68 percent); updating their websites (66 percent); and producing white papers and case studies (60 percent).

"This poll shows us that contractors can benefit from investing in thought leadership programs, hosting webinars and leveraging the reach of trade publications,” said Joyce Bosc, president of Boscobel Marketing Communications.

(Image via STILLFX/