Geology Journal Declines to Publish Iranian Authors

By Maloney, Wendi | Academe, July/August 2006 | Go to article overview

Geology Journal Declines to Publish Iranian Authors


Maloney, Wendi, Academe


The American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) declined earlier this year to publish two papers using data from Iran. The authors reportedly received a rejection letter from the AAPG Bulletin stating, "We cannot publish your paper because the United States government restricts publishers from publishing papers that have an affiliation with the government of Iran." Three of the authors involved are affiliated with Norway's University of Bergen, whose Web site includes an account of the rejection.

A co-author of one of the papers is an Iranian research fellow at the university; three of the four authors of the other paper are from Iran, including the lead author, who is employed by Iran's state oil company. Both papers draw on data from the oil company to discuss fundamental aspects of geology.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported in May that the AAPG, in rejecting the papers, cited a December 2004 ruling of the U.S. Treasury Department authorizing U.S. publishers to edit texts from authors in Cuba, Iran, and Sudan-but not if the authors are part of the government of one of those countries. The Treasury Department is charged with administering trade sanctions imposed on countries judged by the president to be national security threats, and Cuba, Iran, and Sudan are under sanction. Before the ruling, the Treasury Department had interpreted the embargoes against sanctioned countries as barring scholarly collaboration with authors living in them.

"We like to say that geology knows no borders," Richard D. Fritz, AAPG's executive director, told the Chronicle. "But we also have to live within the laws of our government." The AAPG's legal counsel said that the papers' use of data from Iran's national oil company might make the government of Iran a party to the transaction, and the association is therefore seeking clarification from the Treasury Department.

Some have criticized the AAPG for being too wary. But Robert M. O'Neil, chair of the AAUP's Special Committee on Academic Freedom and National Security in a Time of Crisis, says that the AAPG's decision reflects genuine continuing uncertainty about the freedom of scientific journals to publish articles that bear any link to trade-embargoed nations. …

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