AIAA Suspends Ban on Embargoed Nations

Staff Writer

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has temporarily suspended its ban on papers from countries under a U.S. trade embargo. The institute will make a final decision about the policy after its next board meeting on 1 September.

AIAA instituted the ban last month after its board of directors resolved that publishing papers submitted to AIAA journals or AIAA-sponsored conferences by authors from Iran, Cuba, North Korea, and Sudan would be inconsistent with the U.S. government's embargo policies against those countries (ScienceNOW, 15 June). Other scientific societies were surprised by the decision because it seems to fly in the face of a December 2004 ruling by the U.S. government that journals were free to edit and publish submissions from embargoed nations.

The suspension of the ban, announced yesterday on AIAA's Web site, means that the institute's journals will resume publishing papers from anywhere. The two dozen Iranian-authored manuscripts that were pulled by AIAA will be reinstated. The reprieve follows a vote by the board to review the ban in light of concerns expressed by many AIAA members.

The Sharif University of Technology Association (SUTA), an Iranian organization that campaigned against the ban, welcomed the announcement but expressed disappointment that the board had not revoked the ban permanently. "We think this is probably a face saving strategy, not to accept that they made a mistake," SUTA President Fredun Hojabri told Science in an e-mail. Board member David Jensen, a civil engineer at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, says his colleagues wanted more time to ponder how best to align the 30,000-member organization's publications policy with the security interests of the United States. "I believe providing technical feedback to authors in embargoed countries is a violation of the U.S. government's policies," he says. "The ideal solution is for these countries to stop threatening the United States and other free countries, so that we can go back to an open exchange."

Masoud Darbandi, an aerospace engineer at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, whose paper on high-temperature irradiance was re-accepted by the Journal of Thermophysics and Heat Transfer after the ban was suspended, sees the issue differently. The society should not "mix political issues with academic affairs," he says. "Iranian researchers want to contribute to knowledge just as researchers anywhere else."

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