American Chemical Society cannot accept
manuscripts submitted by Iranian chemists
By David Rahni
January 3, 2003
This letter appeared in Chemical
and Engineering News magazine (December 15, 2003) under
the title "Economic sanctions go too far".
The unilateral U.S. economic sanctions
of 1998 against several Middle Eastern countries, including Iran,
have now been zealously
interpreted to an unprecedented degree to include scientific
exchange of publication materials.
Specifically, it is believed that U.S.
professional societies, including the American Chemical Society,
cannot accept manuscripts submitted by Iranian chemists for publication
in their periodicals (C&EN, Nov. 24, page 25).
I believe this
policy is anti-science and anti-American; that is, against the
principles on which the
U.S. was founded.
Whereas one might argue for exerting political and
economic pressure and persuasion on another government to ensure
it conforms with
our principles of democracy, freedom, and free trade, it is
hypocritical and thus disturbing to curtail the free flow of scientific
Let us bear in mind that in the midst of the
Cold War, for instance, Andrei Sakharov and Anatoly Sharansky
punitively penalized for having been born and worked in a
country run by a political system we did not then favor.
one should easily discern their critical role in that society;
their open exchange of scholarly pursuits, which was never
halted, was an underpinning catalyst toward sociopolitical
many of the professors and scientists in Iran were educated
in the West, especially in the U.S. According to a recent Science
Iran has become the second country after Egypt in the
Middle East (excluding Israel, which is substantially
in terms of number
of scientific publications, especially in chemistry,
neuroscience, and materials science. In just the past
10 years, Iran has
nearly quadrupled its previous figures.
Isn't it paradoxical
penalize the youth, scientists, and the progressive
reform-minded elements there simply because we aspire to see
in the political system?
I understand that ACS leadership, through various
venues, including the Office of Legislative & Government Affairs
and the Communications Office, has begun a concerted effort with
other scientific societies
(including IEEE, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)
to rectify and resolve this misguided policy.
If so, ACS would
once again demonstrate its long-standing comitment
to free exchange of scientific pursuits, due in part to its international
Finally, when our government resorts to such shortsighted
measures, the ramifications undermine the professional and personal
of nearly 1 million Iranian Americans, including several
thousands in the chemical sciences.
David N. Rahni is Professor of Chemistry at Pace
University, Pleasantville, New York. He has served as the
founding director of graduate program in Environmental Science.
He is a member of the Board of Editors for the Forensic Science
Communications, a premier journal in support of the law enforcement
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