Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, February 19, 2004

More on trade embargoes on scientific publications

The American Chemical Society has decided to edit and publish articles by authors from Iran, Cuba, and other embargoed nations, contrary to a ruling by the U.S. Treasury Department. After the Treasury Department handed down its ruling in September 2003, the ACS adopted a temporary moratorium on papers from embargoed countries while it explored its options. But on Tuesday it decided to lift the moratorium. As part of its investigation the ACS talked to the president's science advisor, John Marburger III, members of Congress, and officials from the Treasury Department. The ACS is considering a challeng to the constitutionality of the ruling. Quoting Robert Bovenschulte, president of the ACS publications division: "Fundamentally, the moratorium put us at odds with our own ethical guidelines....It is, frankly, inimical to the advancement of science, which is a worldwide activity....The principle is that we should consider what to publish based upon its scientific merit, and that's it. Full stop." Quoting Mark Seely, a lawyer for Reed Elsevier: "This is a classic First Amendment, prior-restraint issue. We can't tell beforehand what's okay unless we apply to the government for permission to publish." Quoting Doug Campbell, spokesman for Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), who has introduced legislation to reverse the Treasury Department ruling: "The government should not be telling American citizens who they should and shouldn't talk to. It serves our interests to share information with people who live under oppressive regimes and hopefully, through that process promote democracy and rule of law." For more details, see Lila Guterman, Chemical Society Lifts Moratorium on Publishing Papers From Embargoed Countries, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 19, 2004 (accessible only to subscribers) and Kevin Coughlin, Chemists to accept reports from Iran, Newark Star-Ledger, February 19, 2004.