The Chronicle of Higher
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Geology Journal Cites U.S. Policy in Rejecting 2 Papers Tied to Iran
By LILA GUTERMAN
Rekindling a controversy that many academics thought had ended more than a
year ago, a scientific publisher has rejected two papers because of their
authors' connections to Iran.
The American Association of Petroleum Geologists turned down the
manuscripts submitted to its AAPG Bulletin because, in one case, an author
worked for the National Iranian Oil Company, and in the other, the paper's
authors in Norway had received data from the Iranian oil company.
The association cited a U.S. Treasury Department ruling, released in
December 2004, that allows American publishers to edit and publish papers
by authors in certain countries under a trade embargo, including Iran, but
not if the authors are part of that country's government (The Chronicle,
December 16, 2004). The association rejected the two papers in separate
letters dated January 31, 2006, that cited the restriction and said, "Your
paper is interesting and well written."
"We like to say that geology knows no borders," Richard D. Fritz, the
association's executive director, said this week. "But we also have to live
within the laws of our government."
Others believe the geologists are being overly cautious. "The regulations
only prohibit the publication of new works by the government of Iran," said
Linda Steinman, a lawyer in the New York City office of Davis Wright
Tremaine. "I personally do not believe that would extend to members of
industry or authors who use data from an industry," she said, even if it is
The Treasury Department rule, which also covers Cuba and Sudan, defines
"government of Iran" to mean "the state and the government of Iran, as well
as any political subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, which
includes the Central Bank of Islamic Republic of Iran; and any person
acting or purporting to act directly or indirectly on behalf of any of the
Craig Blackstock, the association's lawyer, said it was concerned about
"what makes the government of Iran a party to the transaction." Just using
the national oil company's data may do so, he said. The association will
seek clarification from the Treasury Department to find out if that
interpretation is correct, he said.
One critic called the association a "coward." Marc H. Brodsky, who is
executive director of the American Institute of Physics and chairman of the
Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of
American Publishers, accused the geologists' association of being
"completely in violation of the traditions of freedom of press in the
The publishing division led by Mr. Brodsky and three other publishing
groups sued the government in September 2004, citing the First Amendment,
over the regulations, which were then in flux. Ms. Steinman represents them
in the lawsuit. The publishers did not drop the lawsuit after the December
2004 determination reversed earlier, more-restrictive rulings. The
publishers are now negotiating the wording of a new regulation with the
government, according to Mr. Brodsky.