On 2 April 2004, IEEE received a ruling from OFAC (PDF, 295 KB) that removes governmental constraints on IEEE regarding manuscripts submitted by authors in countries that are under US trade embargoes. IEEE has resumed its normal publishing process for authors worldwide.

Provided by the IEEE Transnational Committee

OFAC stands for United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). In 2001, during a transfer of funds for a conference to be held in Iran, IEEE was informed by a financial institution that the transfer could not occur due to OFAC restrictions. IEEE researched OFAC embargoes and found that they could impact our normal business operations, including member services and publishing activities, for individuals in certain countries. Needless to say, IEEE was not at all pleased with this knowledge, so staff and volunteers have been actively working with the US government and the publishing industry to determine what needs to happen to allow us to continue our business as usual.

With knowledge of the embargoes, IEEE informed members residing in Cuba, Iran, Libya, and Sudan (countries sanctioned by OFAC) that, because of OFAC regulations, those members would not be able to take advantage of member benefits and services; only print subscriptions to IEEE publications could be provided with membership.

Certain aspects of editing of papers and manuscripts submitted to IEEE publications also were affected by these regulations. So, in December 2002, IEEE sent a request for OFAC to exempt its entire publishing process. After many months of discussions and providing additional information to OFAC, on 30 September 2003, OFAC confirmed that IEEE could publish articles from authors in Iran and that the IEEE peer review process was entirely exempt from the Iranian embargo rules.

However, OFAC also said IEEE needed a license for editing. On 6 October 2003, IEEE provided supplemental information to OFAC, reiterating our position that the entire publishing process for authors in all embargoed countries should be exempt. At the same time, IEEE also requested that OFAC issue a license to enable us to carry on our normal publication process if an exemption was not possible. After the ruling, IEEE continued to receive papers, send them to editors and reviewers for peer review, and publish those that met its publication standards without style and copy editing.

As of the end of March 2004, IEEE had not received a ruling on its request but discussions with OFAC continued.

On 3 March 2004, in a letter, US Congressman Howard Berman, of California, asked OFAC Director, R. Richard Newcomb, to reconsider the decision to require a specific license for editing material for scholarly journals. Berman, author of the amendment to exempt information and informational materials from economic embargoes [Section 203(b) of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act] said that recent interpretations of the regulation are inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the law. Berman also called the interpretation reflected in the 30 September 2003 ruling to IEEE "patently absurd."

IEEE has taken a leading role to help other scholarly publishers understand its experience with OFAC regulations by organizing a special summit of scientific, technical and medical publishing organizations, which was held on 9 February 2004 in Washington, DC. One of the objectives of the meeting was to determine if there is a natural coalition of such organizations that could collectively address with the US government the impact of the restrictions on the scientific community in the United States and abroad. David Mills, OFAC chief of licensing, encouraged the groups represented to work together to help OFAC better understand the academic peer review process. He noted that his office requires constant education to understand the different areas on which they are asked to rule. Arthur Winston, 2004 IEEE President stated, “IEEE is committed to investigating any and all avenues that will lead to a resolution of the difficult situation OFAC creates for scholarly publishers.”

Questions about IEEE's OFAC-related policies and practices may be addressed to compliance@ieee.org