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Feature Publication Ethics

Unintended consequences of sanctions against Iran

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 23 July 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f4650

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Sophie Arie, freelance journalist
  1. 1London, UK
  1. sophiearie{at}

Fear of breaching US sanctions is leading some editors to reject papers from Iranian authors. Sophie Arie investigates

The latest changes to US sanctions on Iran, designed to discourage the country from developing nuclear weapons, seem to have caused confusion, leading to some journal editors effectively boycotting research from Iranian medical practitioners and academics.

Regulations set out by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control state that US citizens are authorised to engage in ordinary transactions related to written publications as long as the parties to the transactions are not employed by the Iranian government.1 Most Iranian universities, hospitals, and research centres are government owned but the regulations specify that the sanctions do not apply to any academic and research institutions or their staff.

Nevertheless, Iranian doctors have told the BMJ that several papers have been refused by journals in the US and Australia in recent months because of the sanctions.

The editor of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), which is owned by Elsevier, explained in an email to an assistant professor in the department of paediatrics at Tehran University of Medical Sciences that the journal could not accept his paper because “US owned journals are unable to handle …

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