Recently, two articles by teams from the University of Bergen were accepted by prominent US journals and then turned down because, the publishers said, “we cannot publish your paper because the United States government restricts publishers from publishing papers that have an affiliation with the government of Iran.”. Some of the authors were Iranian citizens, you see, although they work or had worked as researchers here in Bergen. (Sorry, I can’t find any English language sources for this – perhaps being censored…)

Isn’t that astounding, though? The results results are presumably important, since they were accepted in an internationally reknowned, peer reviewed journal. They have nothing to do with bombs or weapons of mass destruction or politics – this is geology and oil and such. And yet the US government refuses to allow US journals to publish this, just because some of the authors – scholars, not politicians – have Iranian passports? How peculiar that the country that (in theory) has the strongest tradition of freedom of speech and democracy stifles research and communication like this.

And the big question: did YOU know about this? Did you know that research by Iranians is being censored? I didn’t.

I got to sit next to rektor at dinner last night, which was very interesting – and when I asked what rektors do all day he told me about this as an example of what he’s been doing this week. He’s been talking to American and Norwegian ambassadors and scientists and to the National Science Foundation and to the media and to politicians about this. A wise rektor can have considerable power to raise awareness and actually influence the world.

Afterwards we went to Garage and had a couple of beers with the student representatives. Yes, really.

16 thoughts on “censorship of research

  1. Alexander Berglund

    I actually stumbled upon this site through people blogging about the DAC-conference back in 2005… Intresting fact you have come up with and I had no idea it’s happening.

    It’s the dean (Which is sort of an headmaster for a university) which is the word you are seeking instead of “rektor”. Nevertheless it’s an intresting post and point you made.

    Oh, And I am to give you a bit feedback on the blog as well – In comment mode (in which I am currently in) the form is looking strange as the right textblock (“Trackbacks”) is
    overlapping the -element in Firefox =). Keep up!

  2. Andreas Haugstrup

    This is a terrible story.

    And I don’t know if Dean is the word to use… At least in Danish “Dekan” is the headmaster for a specific faculty (Humanities, Natural Sciences etc.) while “Rektor” is reserved for the bigwig who runs the entire university. I thought dean was being used in the same way in English.

  3. Martin

    I actually knew about this, because a friend of mine helped some Iranian people translate
    some articles (in political science?) into Norwegian from English. The point was that they prob.
    wouldn’t be published in publications in English. I also remember reading about this on a blog
    somewhere some time ago, but had forgotten about it. It’s good to be reminded what kind of world
    one is up against.

    …and rector is the correct word (though spelt with a c in English). This is used for most Scandinavian universities.

  4. Elin

    Well, thank god we’re Scandinavians, then, I guess. Does this mean we won’t be published if we cite Iranian research?

  5. Ben Heumann

    After living in Sweden for six months, I have become aware that man people aournd the world don’t reall understand that my nation is really, truly evil in many respects. When the United States government does not like somewhere or somebody, they try to punish he/she/it in everyway possible. The United States treats Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and formally Iraq all on the same standard: No American and no party of one of those countries may have anything to do with each other, period. While in Sweden, I met several Iranians, which quite frankly amazed me because it was the first time in my life I have ever been able to. To those of us who want to see a peaceful world, these sort of laws seem offensive, but to hawkish, end of the world, god fearing Americans, they are just doing their duty to protect their nation.

  6. collin

    I think that I first heard about this through the work of Suresh Canagarajah (sp?), but I can’t recall if it was in a separate chapter or his book on the geopolitics of academic writing. If you’re interested in looking into the various ways that U.S. journals institutionalize the exclusion of non-U.S. scholars, that’s not a bad place to start. I find his work really eye-opening in that respect…


  7. Francois Lachance

    See Kathleen Fitzgerald’s entry on Planned Obsolescence about an other case of information control intimidation:

    Discourse about Venezula, in that particular case. A visit by law enforcement cadre, in that case. One commentator calls it “ideological profiling”. Chill in the air has turned to frost on the ground.

  8. Claus

    > paper because the United States government restricts publishers from publishing papers that have an affiliation with the government of Iran.î

    I’m afraid that this is the same hypocrisy as usual. Who bans the US because of Guantanamo Bay, or who bans the Chinese for having invaded Tibet about 55 years ago? Almost no-one, because a) the’re too big, and b) $$$. I’m really sick and tired because of this.

  9. Claus

    > And I donít know if Dean is the word to useÖ

    In German, “Rektor” is the head of a school, while “Dekan” (deacon) is the head of a university.

  10. Claus


    > deacon

    It should have read “Dean”, of course. 😉

  11. Martin

    The official word is rector. Sorry I didn’t state my sources before.

  12. Martin

    By the by, did you know that our rector is the man who led the procession that marched out of SFs landsm¯te, thus creating what eventually became AKP (m-l)? You could have tipped me over with a butterfly when I heard that.

  13. Elin

    OMG…ditto the butterfly…

  14. Anonymous for Political Safety

    When one realizes that the United States of America has, de facto, become a fascist state (and I mean no hyperbole in this observation), the banning of Iranian researchers makes sense, and is consistent with everything else that seems hypocritical. The apparent hypocrisy exists only when cast against a ground of democracy, fundamental freedoms, active and lively citizen engagement in political processes, and other activities of a healthy society.

    As a “gedankenexperiment,” change the name of the country to something that connotes dictatorship or totalitarianism – something that ends in a “-istan” or begins with a “Democratic People’s Republic of…” Then list the recent (and not so recent) actions of the nation and see if they are consistent with the new name.

    It is both sad, and ironically terrifying, to consider what has been allowed to happen by both the sleeping population of the U.S.A., and the rest of the world community.

  15. Jill

    Martin, I had no idea. What a FASCINATING thought. I wish I’d thought to ask him about that at the dinner – come to think of it, he almost broached the subject, when he asked whether I’d seen GymnaslÊrer Pedersen. Except the conversation never reached processions and such.

  16. Martin

    Ha ha! Did he, now? I wonder how all the old AKP (m-l) people feel about that film.

    Actually I just found out about this the day after I’d sat in a meeting with him (on the gender thing). In a radical magasine (“Brodd,” I think?), they published a speech he held at a rally back in the late 60’s. The rhetoric was fantastic. Blood red, all comrades and grassroot revolutions and so forth. A far cry from the guy I met (who seemed more quietly reform-minded).

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