The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is an important scientific association counting 423,000 members from over 160 different countries, committed to advancement in electrical, electronic and computer engineering, as well as telecommunications and related disciplines.
Yesterday the New York-based association announced to the editors of its 200 scientific journals that continuing to use Huawei employees as reviewers of technical papers could result in “severe legal implications”, due to the sanctions on the Chinese tech giant. The Huawei employees will be able to serve on the IEEE editorial boards but “cannot handle any papers” until the U.S. government lifts the sanctions.
Huawei was added to the list of companies for which a license is required before transferring or selling U.S. tech on May 15th by the Department of Commerce. The licenses are issued by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) in certain cases, however, the Department of Commerce can refuse to grant the license in case of suspected threat to national interests. According to U.S.officials, Huawei – a manufacturer of globally -distributed smartphones – could be used by the Chinese government to spy on users and harm sensitive infrastructure.
The IEEE explained in a statement issued on May 22nd to its members that Huawei scientists will no longer have access to technical information, as for example the one contained in a research paper. In specific, scientists “cannot receive or access materials submitted by other persons until after IEEE has accepted the material for publication.”
The Huawei scientists may act as editors or peer reviewers only after the materials are reviewed and published. They will also be able to engage in a range of activities such as attending IEEE sponsored conferences and make presentations, Submit articles to journals, and participate in leadership and governance bodies to which they belong.
The ban infuriated Chinese scientists on social media. Haixia Zhang from the Peking University in Beijing wrote a letter to the IEEE leaders: “I joined IEEE as a Ph.D. student because it is recognized as an International academic platform in electronics engineering, but this message is challenging my professional integrity. I have decided to quit the editorial boards [of two IEEE journals] until it restores our common professional integrity.”