Two American academic societies have reversed their policies toward Iranian scientists. One, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), has decided to no longer prohibit Iranian authors from publishing in its journals, while the American Concrete Institute (ACI) has decided to install a new ban barring Iranian students from taking part in an annual engineering competition they routinely enter each year.
Last month, the AIAA board of directors decided to permanently rescind the ban on publishing Iranian authors it had enacted in May. The organization had temporarily suspended the ban in June pending its September meeting. Susan Ying, a board member, told
AIAA enacted the ban because the board feared it might be violating US embargo law, which prohibits Americans from trading with citizens of Iran, Cuba and Sudan. The ban effectively targeted only Iranians, because the AIAA has no Cuban or Sudanese members or authors, according to executive director Bob Dickman.
In September 2003, the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) ruled that the little-known embargo law prohibited the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) from editing manuscripts from all embargoed countries, leaving it with no choice but to publish them unedited or reject them.
Subsequently, a few other scientific societies stopped publishing Iranians after the IEEE decision out of fear that OFAC would also charge them with a crime. A consortium of academic publishers and societies led by the Association of American Publishers pressed OFAC for over a year to drop the embargo, but to no avail. Last October, the consortium sued the agency, and last December, OFAC reversed its decision, granting a general license to all US publishers to edit and publish material from embargoed nations.
Marc Brodsky, CEO of the American Institute of Physics and a central figure in the publishers' lawsuit, told
According to Ying, the AIAA board enacted its ban and rescinded it without ever discussing the fact that OFAC had settled the publishing issue last December. AIAA's Dickman declined to comment other than to verify the ban's revocation.
Last January, the American Concrete Institute (ACI) decided to ban Iranian students from taking part in its annual international student engineering competition after OFAC ruled that certification courses ACI had been offering to Iranian professionals were illegal, because they provided a service. Students from Cuba and Sudan were also banned from the competition, although none have entered the contest, according to William Tolley, ACI'S executive vice president.
Unfortunately, Iranian students didn't learn they were excluded from the ACI engineering competition until this summer when they attempted to register, according to Fredun Hojabri, former president of the alumni association for Iran's Sharif University of Technology.