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Mark Seeley | Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Elsevier

In May this year, I communicated via our Elsevier Connect website about changes in US trade sanctions regulations and executive orders enforced by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

In the article, I noted that there are questions around the participation in scholarly publishing activities by Iranian government employees that are deemed to be engaged in, or supporting, the potential development of weapons technologies or supporting the government-owned energy industry. We also sent US editors and US reviewers a communication informing them that they must avoid handling manuscripts that include an author employed by the government of Iran. That stipulation included research departments of nuclear facilities as well as the various oil and gas companies deemed to be entities of the government of Iran.

It is important to make clear that the sanctions do not apply to manuscripts from academic and research institutes and manuscripts originating from non-governmental clinical settings, such as hospitals or clinical practices. This means that the sanctions affect only a very small selection of research papers coming out of Iran.

Our belief, as we communicated earlier this year, is that restrictions on publishing are inappropriate, and any exceptions should be narrowly crafted. Elsevier, like most publishers, believes that the free flow of ideas and information is the right principle for science and for society. As we noted in May, we are taking steps to evaluate changes in laws and regulations to support a “freedom to publish” model, and this month we sent a letter to OFAC, requesting clarification of the 2007 General License and other laws and regulations that touch on publishing issues.  We believe the US government should provide an opinion and guidance to ensure that Iranian government employee researchers can publish, and to ensure that the “publishing exception” covers all other countries that might be subject to sanctions.

We are currently awaiting a response from OFAC but, in the meantime, we believed it would be appropriate to provide this update on the situation to our Editors.