09/11/2019, 16.14
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US sanctions against Iran block research, limit scientific progress

For BMJ Global Health, the draconian measures imposed by the US deny opportunities and access to information. The impact is huge and undermines worldwide research and publications. Iran is third in terms of engineering and science graduates. The academic boycott is not useful to achieve political ends.

Tehran (AsiaNews) – US sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran, a leading country in the world in the field of science, are seriously limiting global scientific progress, this according to the British journal BMJ Global Health.

As a result of the draconian sanctions, Iranian scientists have been denied opportunities to publish their findings, attend meetings, and access essential supplies and information, this according to the medical journal.

In the latter’s view, such bans are to the detriment of international collaboration and nations' ability to respond to health crises and narrow inequalities inside and between nations.

The decision by US President Donald Trump in May last year to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear agreement (JCPOA) heightened US-Iran tensions, triggering a serious economic crisis in the Mideast country.

The White House introduced the toughest sanctions in history and boosted US military presence in the region, negatively impacting Iran’s oil exports and the life of ordinary Iranians.

For many analysts, sanctions are one of Washington’s top weapons in its economic war against the Islamic Republic. And the policy of maximum pressure has already inflicted serious damage on the population, like causing shortages in drugs, like those use in chemotherapy treatment.

In terms of scientific research, the economic and health impact of sanctions is huge, BMJ Global Health notes, and affects the whole Middle East, undermining research and publications.

One consequence is that many international agencies and research organisations have stopped working with their Iranian counterpart for fear of US retaliation.

Iran, the British journal notes, ranks 3rd in the world for science and engineering graduates and for tertiary education, 12th in the world for knowledge impact, and 32nd for science and technical publications. As recently as 1996 it ranked first in the world for international collaboration on published research, but in 2017 it was last.

According to the chair of Electrical Engineering Department of Stanford University, "without a doubt the finest university in the world preparing undergraduate electrical engineers is Sharif University of Technology in Tehran".

BMJ Global Health cited an increased research output in Iran and a steady growth in scientific innovation, productivity, knowledge impact and patents. But the blockade on currency exchange has prevented the payment of fees for publishing open access articles, registration at conferences, and membership of professional organizations. This has prompted many high impact journals and publishers to refuse to handle research papers from Iran, which in turn stymies academic career development.

"Available evidence suggests that academic boycotts are not successful tools to achieve political ends”, but “they do affect the healthcare of the vulnerable and disadvantaged,” the authors of the analysis write. What is more, "academic boycotts violate researchers' freedoms and curtail progress. Free exchange of ideas, irrespective of creed, is needed to optimize global scientific progress,"

Complicating matters, several Iranian scientists have been lured to travel to the United States with research visas only to be arrested once they land in the country.

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