IEEE infuriates

Published: Thursday 15 April 2004

Institution of Electrical and Electronic Engineers

The Institution of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (ieee), an international professional society with 3.6 lakh members, has landed itself in a controversy by cutting off most of its services to members from countries against whom the us has slapped trade and economic embargoes.

More than 5,000 engineers, most of them its members from non-embargoed countries, in a signed petition questioned the body's decision to toe the us government line and urged the ieee executive to immediately "cease discrimination against ieee members from countries that are embargoed by the us government." The countries concerned are Iran, Cuba, Libya and Sudan.

The members are mad about several actions ieee has taken -- or hidden from them -- over the past 2 years: abruptly dropping embargoed members' services, not approaching other scientific organisations for help in fighting the objectionable embargo regulation, and unilaterally pushing for federal ruling which prohibits all American societies from publishing research papers particularly from Iranian scientists. The ieee publishes more than 100 journals.

"This has created just tremendous bad will toward the ieee," said Kenneth Foster, a University of Pennsylvania professor of bioengineering and an ieee fellow, "not only from the Iranians, but from Europeans and actually from all over the world. A lot of these people are dropping memberships."

The controversy began in August 2001 when an American bank rejected an ieee cheque to pay for a meeting room in Tehran. Subsequently, the ieee decided to take drastic steps. In January 2002, it dropped those members' e-mail aliases and their online access to ieee journals. It stopped giving them discounts on ieee meeting fees, stopped elevating worthy members to senior member and fellow status, cut off student chapters and forbade all chapters from using the ieee logo. In Iran alone, the ieee has 1,700 members.

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