A recent email from a friend of mine triggered me to write a post on the WAME forum about a relatively old scientific embargo issue. Some days ago one of my friends who is an orthodontist asked me to help him to submit one of his articles in the related field to a reputable journal. I suggested some journals in his field which were mainly based in the US. He refused saying that such journals would not accept articles from Iranian researchers. I remember some years ago that a law was issued in the US which prevented articles from Iran being published in US journals. But I also remember that at that time the global scientific community had reacted to the law and the embargo was ended.
Since then many other articles from Iranian researchers were published in American journals, among them one where I was an author. So I replied to my friend that such an issue belongs to the past and encouraged him to submit his article to the journal.
He did as I recommended and shortly received an email from the chief editor of the American journal saying:
“We have received your manuscript in our automated system. Unfortunately, our Federal Government does not allow us to process and edit manuscripts submitted from Iran. I regret that the world situation results in our inability to communicate science as we would wish. I suggest that you submit your manuscript to a European journal or a journal located in some other country than ours. “
My friend forwarded the email to me. I was really shocked to see such clear bias and breach of editorial ethics in the email. I wondered if a new law was issued or the editor’s knowledge was very out of date. Surely scientific communication has nothing to do with the political tensions and such an approach to distribution of science is not ethical.
One of the main aims of publishing a medical journal is distribution of scientific findings of any researcher for the best possible diagnosis, treatment, and patient care. By publishing an article any author would like his peers and colleagues to know the results of his/her research to hopefully make a tiny change in the management of diseases. So no editor has the right to deprive his readers from reading the results of research which was rigorously done by other scientists, just because they were born in a specific country.
Although the issue of scientific embargo seems to belong to a past period, such emails from an editor highlight the negative impact of issuing a “law” in this regard, which may last for many years in people’s minds.
Behrooz Astaneh is a BMJ visiting editor